Blogs & Videos: Object Conservation

Video: The Team

Meet the other members of this inaugural team and learn about what skills are needed for the upkeep of this important collection. Check back in on Monday for the final video in the series for a first-hand look at the backbone for the whole collection – the infrastructure. See what goes into installing the collection’s compactor units and see how these nuts and bolts do more than hold everything together.

Rehousing Sulka Masks

As a graduate student from the Buffalo State College Art Conservation Department, I am completing my summer internship at the Field Museum. I’m working in the Regenstein Conservation Lab with J.P. Brown, the Regenstein Conservator for Pacific Anthropology.  Our main project for the summer has been rehousing the Field Museum’s collection of Sulka dance masks from New Britain, Papua New Guinea

Video: Conserving Sticky

J. P. Brown is the Regenstein Conservator for Pacific Anthropology at The Field Museum and his job is to maintain and preserve the objects housed in our Anthropology collections. In this case, JP is using CT Scan technology to understand how the figure of a seated man from the Pacific island of Malekula (Republic of Vanuatu) was constructed. By revealing the different layers that make this fascinating handcraft, JP will be able to make decisions on how to store it properly so future generations can also enjoy it and keep preserving it.

Video: Dear Benjamin Walsh

On the shelves of the Mary W. Runnells Rare Book Room at The Field Museum's library, there are 18 original letters written by Charles Darwin. They are part of Darwin's extensive correspondence and in 1948 the Museum received them as part of Benjamin D. Walsh's entomology library. Walsh, a British immigrant based in Illinois, was a self taught scientist who admired Darwin's theory of evolution. During his last five years of life, Walsh exchanged several letters with Darwin in which they shared personal stories as well as scientific findings. Thanks to the Library's efforts, these letters are now part of the Darwin Correspondence Project's digital archive.

18 July 2011 - CT Scanning

This past week, we got a glimpse inside some of The Field Museum’s mummies and a few other artifacts.  Because we can’t physically unwrap the mummies without damaging them, we used a CT scanner to make three dimensional x-ray images of the objects.  Using software, we can then take a look at the 3D image to see what’s inside.  Inside we found grave goods such as a pot filled with what appears to be grain or residue from an evaporated liquid and what could be a necklace in addition to human remains, of course.  Although in one case, we found no remains where we expected to see a full skeleton.

23 June 2011 - Preparing to XRF

This week in the Regenstein Lab, we have been preparing to analyze a collection of carved and painted shields from Papua New Guinea using p-XRF.  P-XRF stands for portable X-ray fluorescence.  By bombarding the pigments on the shield that we want to identify with X-rays, we can see the chemical composition of the paint.  The electrons in the cloud around the nucleus of each atom respond to the X-rays by jumping to a lower energy level and giving off some energy of their own.  P-XRF measures the energy released and identifies the type of element in the sample.

Cross-sectioning fibers

Examining textile fibers in cross-section can yield important information about the source of the fiber.  I've always like working with a paraffin wax embedment on a hand microtome for cross-sectioning fibers, but the process is long, dissolving the wax away is smelly, and you tend to lose some of the cross-sections in the process.  What do you do when you have only a single fiber and you can't afford to lose it, or when you're in a hurry?  In this case, you need some way of securing the fiber so that the sections produced are easy to spot and handle.