Conservation by the Kecks

Today on the blog, a message from Jean Portell:

Dear MRCG Members,

I am a retired AIC Fellow, working on a biography of the late NY-based conservators, Sheldon and Caroline Keck, who in the mid-20th century became very famous and were widely sought out. I would appreciate suggestions about which Mid-West Region museums may have sent paintings to the Kecks for conservation treatment. Already I am in touch with the Wichita Art Museum.

Jean D. Portell

13 Garden Place, Brooklyn NY 11201 / Tel: 718.643.1222 /

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New addition – Carpooling!

Are you coming to Cooperstown and looking for a ride? Have your rental car reserved but sad about that empty seat next to you? Head over to our carpooling page here and fill out the form so we can get the wheeled together with the wheel-less and get everybody to Cooperstown!

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Job Posting – The Minnesota Historical Society

The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) seeks qualified and experienced applicants for an Associate Book and Paper Conservator position, to provide conservation treatment for MNHS book and paper collections and to manage the book and paper conservation laboratory, including a Conservation Assistant.

Desired qualifications include an advanced degree or Certificate in Art Conservation plus three years of experience. This is a full-time position (2,088 annual hours) and the salary is projected to be at least $45,000 annually.

The Minnesota Historical Society is a 167-year old organization, headquartered in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, and maintains a museum, library, and archives, in addition to close to 30 diverse historic sites throughout the state. The organization is a national leader in historic preservation, and by many metrics (including budget, staffing, and membership) is one of the largest state historical societies in the United States. Currently MNHS maintains four separate conservation laboratories for the preservation of books and paper, textiles, objects, and archaeology, and employs five trained conservators. The conservation facilities are large, flexible, well equipped, and modern.

To apply submit MNHS Application for Employment, (available at, cover letter, resume, and if applicable, any supplemental forms.

The specific job listing can be found at the following link:

Application materials must be received by August 23, 2016

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AIC Review – Gellan Gum Workshop

Today’s post comes from Stacey Kelly, Paper Conservation Fellow at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, TX. She shares her experience at the Montreal AIC Meeting’s Gellan Gum Workshop.

In May, the paper conservators at the Amon Carter traveled to Montreal for the 44th Annual Conservation Meeting organized by the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) and the Canadian Association for Conservation of Cultural Property (CAC). The meeting featured numerous talks covering multiple disciplines in conservation including books and paper, photographic materials, paintings, textiles, objects, and so on. There were also hands-on workshops focusing on new conservation techniques, networking receptions, discussion groups, exhibitions, and various other activities related to the historical and cultural areas of Montreal.

Conservation techniques are constantly evolving with the development of new technologies and materials. Jodie Utter, conservator of works on paper, and I, paper conservation fellow, had the chance to attend a workshop on the application of rigid Gellan gels used for conservation treatment. Gellan gel is a nontoxic biopolymer produced naturally by a microorganism. In conservation, the gel is formed in sheets of varying thickness and sizes for controlled wet treatments. The gel, when placed over paper, pulls soluble degradation products out via osmosis. Compared to other treatment methods, it is a gentle process that minimizes changes in the surface of the paper.

During the workshop, we made several batches of Gellan gel in different concentrations. We also tested gels with different additives like alkali and reductive bleach on aged and discolored paper samples provided by the organizers. Take a look at the pictures below to see the Gellan gels in action.

Luckily, I won a bag of Gellan gum in a drawing at the end of the workshop! Needless to say, we are excited to practice some of the techniques we learned at the workshop in our own lab.

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See more of Stacey’s blog entries at the Amon Carter Museum’s blog!

The Conservators go to Austin

The Bug Catchers

A Peek into the Conservation Lab

If you have a conference review, project, or news you’d like to share on the blog, email Claire at – we’d love to hear from you!

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2016 MRCG Emerging Professional Scholarship – Now Open!

We are now accepting applications for the 2016 MRCG Emerging Professional Scholarship. More information and the application can be found here. For more information about what it’s like to be a scholarship recipient, here’s a reflection from Amber Kehoe, one of the 2015 recipients:

MRCG Scholarship: Empowering Emerging Professionals

Being awarded an MRCG Scholarship to attend and speak at the 22nd annual conference was a turbo boost for my preprogram career to say the least. I returned to Minneapolis feeling full – full of ambition, excitement, curiosity, and full from all of the great food I consumed! The support and camaraderie between members was enough to make that weekend unforgettable, but it wasn’t the only thing that resounded with me.

I began each morning waking up in the beautiful, historic Bell Tower Hotel that was only a short walk away from the Kelsey Museum where the event took place. I was the first speaker, which was quite an honor for this year’s lineup. There were many interesting papers shared by a diverse group of conservators. Opening the conference allowed me to introduce myself to the entire group and learn from those who presented after me.

I attended the conference in 2014 in Minneapolis, but at that time, I didn’t feel as connected to the group as I did in Ann Arbor. My presentation was a conversation starter and I met many conservators in the group because of it. The things I learned during this experience positively influenced my approach to giving presentations.

Preparing for my first professional talk to a conservation audience was challenging. I drew from prior presentations at graduate school interviews and lecturing for undergraduate art history courses. To gain further insight on speaking in front of a conservation audience, I utilized AIC’s Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) webinar “Presenting Talks and Papers”. The atmosphere at the symposium was professional yet comfortable, so I think the webinar (and lots of encouragement from supervisors) prepared me will for that situation.

With my strong background in science, it was fitting that I spoke about XRF. What I found most difficult was discussing the chemistry behind the limitations of the technique. It is never easy describing the science behind an analytical technique, especially in a couple of minutes, but the audience was very receptive. I learned later at the reception that some conservators had experience with XRF or were interested in acquiring handheld units for their labs. I enjoyed casually discussing the technique with others and felt like my opinion mattered. The feedback I received was positive and encouraging. Many of the conservators were surprised that I had done this research as a pre-program student and wished me luck for applying tot he graduate programs.

After the symposium, I was invited to present this research to a public audience at the Midwest Art Conservation Center’s Annual Open Lab event. I also included it in my graduate school interviews at Buffalo, Winterthur, and NYU. Presenting at the 22nd annual conference was the beginning of what I hope will be a career filled with professional talks and workshop trainings.

Amber has been accepted into the Class of 2019 at the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation and intends to specialize in photograph conservation. 

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