Conservators Lending a Hand

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Healthcare professionals in the ICU at DMC Sinai Grace Hospital in Detroit using the face shields made and donated by Whitney Museum of American Art assistant conservator Margo Delidow. Image courtesy of DMC Sinai Grace Hospital, Detroit.

It is no secret that conservators have big hearts. Caring for cultural heritage makes us keenly aware of the public we serve and their wellbeing. As manifested by your activities during the pandemic, it is clear that caring for your communities extends beyond the work bench.

IIC has been collecting stories and examples of how you, our fellow conservators, private practices, and heritage institutions have been serving your neighbors during the pandemic. From Spain to the Philippines, your hand skills and generous donations have made a difference in your communities, and we celebrate and thank you!

WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK CITY, USA

(Margo Delidow, Whitney Museum of American Art Assistant Conservator and Eric Meier Conservator, Whryta Contemporary Art Conservation (Face Shields))
On an ordinary day, Whitney conservator Margo Delidow might be caring for a Jenny Holzer bench or preparing a Roy Lichtenstein sculpture to be sent out on loan. However, during the COVID-19 crisis, she and her partner, conservator Eric Meier, have redirected their skills to a new project.

After hearing of a shortage in hospitals across the country, the duo began making face shields out of Tyvek and foam for use by healthcare professionals. Using their technical skills and community connections, Margo and Eric have been building the shields in their South Bronx, New York home and shipping them to hospitals. 

(Heather Cox, Whitney Museum of American Art, Executive Coordinator, Conservation Department (Face Masks))
Not many face masks manage to be artful. Those sewn with love by Whitney conservation coordinator Heather Cox put to good use some vibrant batik fabric, leftover from an artist's book project.

(Carol Mancusi-Ungaro Melva Bucksbaum Associate Director for Conservation and Research at the Whitney Museum of American Art (Donation of PPE))
Carol Mancusi-Ungaro Melva Bucksbaum Associate Director for Conservation and Research at the Whitney Museum of American Art spearheaded an initiative, along with the art handlers, to collect PPE (personal protective equipment) from conservators and art handlers in peer institutions and also those conservators working privately in NYC. These items were picked up and donated to the Columbia University Medical Center. The medical student that collected the equipment wrote to us, “I am so impressed by the art community’s donations. Makes me love the Whitney even more!”

Whitney art handler Greg Reynolds posted this image (left) after his colleagues packed up all of their available supplies with a note for hospital workers. His post from March 20th sums up how we all felt:

"When your amazing colleagues decide you can donate all the supplies you have that a hospital can use. And then one of them rides to work to pack them up. And it makes you a bit emotional."

POST-GRADUATE STUDENT OF ARCHEOLOGY AND HERITAGE MANAGEMENT IN DELHI, INDIA

Amrasha Khandelwal, a post-graduate student of archaeology and heritage management in Delhi, India, worked with her whole family, putting together masks, assembly-line style. You can see a video of the whole family working together HERE and on the IIC Instagram account HERE (see our post on May 12th).

CARING FOR TEXTILES, WASHINGTON DC, USA

Textiles conservator Julia Brennan and her Washington DC based company Caring for Textiles have put together a blog post all about the history of mask use, current mask makers, and fantastic initiatives during the current pandemic:
https://www.caringfortextiles.com/mask-maker-mask-maker-make-me-a-mask-m...

THE MATERIALS RESEARCH CONSERVATION DIVISION OF THE NATIONAL HISTORICAL COMMISSION OF THE PHILIPPINES, (NHCP-MRCD), MANILA, PHILIPPINES

On April 4, 2020, we (The Materials Research Conservation Division of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines-NHCP-MRCD) donated our supplies of PPEs and disinfectants to the front liner institutions who need it the most at this time, including the Jaime Cardinal Sin Village tenement community, the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay (UERM) Hospital, the Philippine General Hospital, and the Santa Ana Hospital. 

This is our small way of showing appreciation to all our valiant front liners working tirelessly in the fight against
COVID-19. 

Keep safe everyone and may God bless us all.

THE MET MASK PROJECT, THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, NEW YORK CITY, USA

A Sewing Army, Making Masks for America, a March 25, 2020, New York Times article sent by Yael Rosenfield—a former conservator in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Department of Textile Conservation (DTC)—to Janina Poskrobko, Conservator in Charge, became an inspiration for a project at The Met to help health care providers and others in need of masks during the pandemic. The mask project, which was endorsed by Met leadership and led by the Department of Textile Conservation, included The Costume Institute and involved staff and volunteers in several additional departments: Antonio Ratti Textile Center (ARTC), Paper Conservation (DPC), Islamic Art (DIA), European Sculpture and Decorative Arts (ESDA), and Design (DD). They contributed knowledge of materials as well as sewing skills. SMART Local 28 Sheet Metal Workers in NYC generously donated aluminum nose pieces to ensure secure fit of the masks. Research was done to determine the best, available for immediate use, materials. Our @mettextileconservation Instagram post from April 2 outlines which fabrics were chosen for the masks and why:

While understanding the complexity of the fabrication of N95 masks, conservators considered the physical properties of conservation materials available in the lab offering the closest protective properties.

Pima cotton (outer layer) made of long fibers creates a high-density fabric up to 300 thread count to help block-out particles. Unbleached muslin (inner layer) is 100% cotton fibers with an open weave for breathability. Pellon® (middle layer) a non-woven polyester, non-fusible fabric chosen for its ability to repel water, which holds the virus.

It took an entire day to unroll bolts of muslin, Pima, and Pellon, measure and cut pieces in the appropriate dimensions, and organize fabric sets for nearly 2,000 masks.

While the project's coordinator, conservator Minsun Hwang, prepared patterns and tutorial videos to illustrate the sewing process, packages with the necessary materials were distributed to the entire group by mail, car, and bike across the empty city. By these same means, completed masks were next collected, packed in labeled boxes (each containing a letter of appreciation), and delivered to three major NYC hospitals and other organizations.

Working in solidarity, the 21 staff members and volunteers, living in all five boroughs of New York and in other states as well—New Jersey, Ohio, Florida—supported New York City’s heroes when masks became a precious, hard-to-find essential item. 

These heroes are also our own Met essential staff: engineers, custodians, security, and collections teams, all in need of PPE while on the job every day. 

Thankful letters received by The Met‘s unique sewing teams were their favorite reward!

The mask project volunteers include: Alexandra Barlow, Caroline Borderies, Beatrice Bacolod, Cristina Carr, Julia Carlson, Minsun Hwang, Kristine Kamiya, Janina Poskrobko, Yael Rosenfield, Midori Sato, Anna Szalecki (DTC), Kaelyn Garcia, Melina Plottu, Elizabeth Randolph, Elizabeth Shaeffer (CI) Heidi Hilker (ARTC), Marina Ruiz-Molina (DPC), Annick Des Roches (DIA), Denny Stone (ESDA), Sarah Parke (DD), Ligia Fernandez (textile conservator in private practice).

FRAN BAAS AND ELENA TOROK, OBJECT CONSERVATORS AT THE DALLAS MUSEUM OF ART, TEXAS, USA

Fran Baas and Elena Torok, both objects conservators at the Dallas Museum of Art, are donating their homemade cotton masks to their local hospital (Baylor University Medical Center)! “They are practically our next door neighbor!” says Fran. Speaking further regarding their donations to Baylor, she said the hospital “thanked us profusely! And we even got a virtual town hall shout-out in front of 300 doctors and nurses!” They are also sending masks to a local women’s organization and the Navajo Nation.

PAM JOHNSON, ASSOCIATE PAINTINGS CONSERVATOR, MODERN ART CONSERVATION, NEW YORK CITY, USA

Pam’s handmade masks have been donated to several different organizations that are in need in New York City, including hospitals, homeless shelters, grocery store employees, volunteers at animal shelters, and a community organization. She has also made several for friends. Pam is associate paintings conservator at Modern Art Conservation, a private practice in New York City.

LEEANN GORDON, ASSOCIATE CONSERVATOR, MUSEUM OF FINE ART BOSTON, USA

LeeAnn Gordon, associate conservator in objects conservation at the MFA Boston, is seen here sewing masks for her extended family in Canada, the families of two co-workers, herself and her husband.

ESCOLA SUPERIOR DE CONSERVACIÓN E RESTAURACIÓN DE BENS CULTURAIS DE GALICIA, SPAIN

The Escola Superior de Conservación e Restauración de Bens Culturais de Galicia, Spain, donated their PPE supplies.

(To see all the lovely images, read the full article in the June-July 2020 "News in Conservation" Issue 78, p. 18-22)

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It is no secret that conservators have big hearts. Caring for cultural heritage makes us keenly aware of the public we serve and their wellbeing. As manifested by your activities during the pandemic, it is clear that caring for your communities extends beyond the work bench.
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