Results of Jennifer Hein’s survey

At the MRCG Annual Symposium in Minneapolis Jennifer Hein, Historic Collections Preservation Conservator at the Indiana War Memorial Military History Museum, presented a talk entitled “Where Does Restoration Go Too Far and Conservation Not Far Enough: Case Studies of Civil War Flags”. During her presentation the audience was asked to vote on whether or not they agreed, disagreed, or were unsure of the treatment approach. Following the meeting Jennifer tallied the results and sent the following report:

This document explains my attitude a bit better and yes it is a philosophical argument in which I am in agreement with many of you.

There were 20 people who did not agree to the movement of the stars on one flag. I would like to report that this has finalized my decision to reverse part of my 2008 treatment to the 2 foot silk marker guidon with the sequined stars. So, I will move the 2 stars back into place, even though the treatment was highly documented. The underlay camouflages the holes enough that their loss is not visually distracting and yes it only requires a few tack threads from the star to the net overlay, so it’s very easy to reverse. This all started when I began being concerned the records would be lost. I do hope you are all pleased with your influence, now I just have to get the case open and permission to remove it for a while.

Paintings Conservator votes –

9 yes / 1 no / 0 maybe

Voter comments: “I love talking ethics & philosophical differences”

Author response: Yes this is a philosophy decision which I tried to explain, was inspired because my history curators always vote for more “visual continuity” or reproduction components. The 1862 & 1910 materials are always distinguishable to us but the linen, silk, cotton education is still something I explain far too often to history curators, so that is why I had asked the MRCG group.

4 yes / 3 no / 3 maybe

Voter comments: “I don’t like (reproductions) them but I can understand the use for educational purposes.”

Author response: The reproductions are promoted because the education use is not reasonable since this military history museum transports framed flags badly. We won’t disclose how.

Paper/Photo/ Book Conservator votes –

7 yes / 2 no / 2 maybe

Voter comments: “As long as it’s reversible.”

Author response: Always reversible but…

6 yes / 2 no / 2 maybe

Voter comments: “All these should be the decision of the curator, not conservator.” Author response: I mentioned that the curators are sometimes too persuasive and they always want more so I was suggesting that we need to have limits to set for our industry.

6 yes / 2 no / 2 maybe

Voter comments: “Much is dependent on degree of documentation.”

Author response: We all learned this but I was concerned the records may be misplaced.

7 yes / 2 no / 2 maybe

Voter comments: “As long as it’s reversible”

Author response: Yes, usually quite easily but …

9 yes / 3 no / 2 maybe

Voter comments: “I think restoring visual continuity” is fine or necessary as long as it’s reversible & distinguishable.”

Author response: Yes, but….

Objects Conservator votes –

10 yes / 4 no / 1 maybe

5 yes / 5 no / 1 maybe

Voter comments: “Tell us more about the way the (dye) spots formed.”

Author response: The dye spots were probable bleaching from a recent restorer who enabled the flag to be displayed on a ceiling in a lawyer’s office before it was recovered by the FBI.

5 yes / 5 no / 1 maybe

Voter comments: “Were U replacing a lost old one (dye spots)?”

Author response: No. I believe in retrospect I would have replaced the letters and not added the scroll since it did not align correctly. The history curators & I had agreed and it takes us so long to finally agree that I didn’t want to start again with the discussion.

4 yes / 2 no / 5 maybe AND 3 yes / 4 no / 4 maybe

Voter comments: “How were the letters attached? Double sided? Color underlay? (referring to painted eagle)

Author response: These votes were strong no’s. To try to clarify what we do- the painted quilted flags are a difficult problem. The painted surface needs a fine cotton as an underlay in order to adhere the thick painted film and some 1910 horse hide glue film that is not all removed. The new adhesive laden reemay (fine polyester cloth) and the paint film both are flattened to the finer substrate because the coarse linen ground behind them did not give good adhesion on its own. Or the PVA 360 on hollytex and the fine cotton colored ground allow for camouflage & stability of the adhesion of the thick painted surface

The added problem with the painted flags is that they are flexible. Maybe I will consider a sturdy canvas underlay as a second backing behind the linen, but the multiple layers seem to cause long term problems that need corrected with each exhibition venue.


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