In Memoriam: P. Andrew Lins (1945-2019)

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Andrew Lins 2010. Photo credit: Thomas J. Tague, Jr.

Andrew Lins lived a full and exemplary life, and it is with sadness that we share the news of his death on Christmas Day at age 74. Andrew was a conservator of decorative arts and sculpture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) from 1979 and chair of the Conservation Division from 1997 until his retirement in 2015. Under his leadership, the department underwent several expansions, significantly increased its focus on scholarly research, and established what became a state-of-the-art scientific research laboratory. As an internationally recognized expert in metals and corrosion, Andrew consulted on numerous important restorations of historical landmarks in Philadelphia and beyond, such as the Liberty Bell Center (Philadelphia, USA) and Lincoln Memorial (Washington DC, USA). He was beloved by many conservators and scientists for his warmth, integrity, and generosity.

Born in Manhattan, Andrew graduated from Hotchkiss School, and received his BA from the University of Pennsylvania, MA and diploma in conservation from NYU, and MSc from Sir John Cass College, London Polytechnic. His strong academic background was combined with full-time study in studio arts at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In the first decade of his career, Andrew was an archaeological conservator at Sardis, Turkey; a Kress Foundation Fellow at the British Museum’s research laboratory and conservation laboratories, working with Andrew Oddy, Hannah Lane, and Janet Lang; and also served as a UNESCO mission conservator in Iran. He was a conservator at the Winterthur Museum, partnering with Don Heller, and an adjunct professor under Peter Sparks at the University of Delaware in the early years of the WUDPAC program. In 1979 he became the first dedicated objects conservator at the PMA.

Andrew fostered an expanded role for the conservation division within the PMA, encouraging a range of activities to support the care of collections. Among his earliest contributions were re-housing over 200 carpets and tapestries into a rolled storage system as well as researching treatments and developing a safe environment for silver objects. He had a deep appreciation for the artist’s hand and was respected by curators, conservators, and scientists for his exceptional knowledge of materials, manufacture, studio techniques, and his skills in conservation treatment.

Andrew’s advocacy led to the establishment of the PMA Scientific Research Laboratory. Together with Beth Price, who he hired as a scientist in 1990, Andrew oversaw the development of the laboratory, which opened the door for significant collaborations with other museums, academic institutions, and industrial partners. With Andrew’s unwavering support, the PMA became a leader in the growth of the Infrared & Raman Users Group (IRUG), a worldwide organization committed to the sharing of scientific data for the preservation of cultural heritage.

With boundless energy and enthusiasm, Andrew effectively led the expanding conservation division while remaining an active researcher and scientist. He was intellectually rigorous and was equally at home in an archive as in a laboratory. He worked in close partnership with others to realize insightful publications on mercury gilding and laser cleaning, as well as on artworks by Houdon, Saint Gaudens, Rodin, and Duchamp. Beyond these formal publications, Andrew responded each year to countless inquiries about silver cleaning, Brancusi sculptures, architectural metals, storage, and innumerable other topics and also served as a panelist for IMLS, NEA, and NEH. He seemed to have a photographic memory and infinite information at his fingertips.

He perhaps was best known as a pioneer and leader in outdoor sculpture conservation, and his impact on the cultural landscape of Philadelphia is truly immeasurable. In 1987 he became part of the first Conservation Advisory Committee for the City of Philadelphia and remained a dedicated leader within this group through the fall of 2019. The sculpture of William Penn on City Hall and the bronze sculptures below are reminders of Andrew’s enthusiastic and innovative thinking: he spoke with animation about the remarkable grain size of the cast bronze, the demonstrable efficacy of ultra-high pressure water to remove corrosion from pits, the evaluation almost in real time of laser cleaning, and the promise of new fluorocarbon coating technologies.

For those who interacted with Andrew, as interns or fellows, staff, students, collaborators, and colleagues, Andrew was much more than a sum of achievements. He valued hard work and was a critical thinker, never complacent in his knowledge or his accomplishments and always aware of both an arc of history as well as the possibilities for the future. He had an inherent courtesy and appreciated others on their own terms and for their own abilities. He was always private, yet conveyed a profound love for his family. In the notes and calls received from many, Andrew is remembered most often for his integrity and his laughter. He listened thoughtfully, spoke carefully, and shared his smile and laughter generously.

Andrew is survived by Judith, his wife of 42 years; children Christopher and Katherine; two sisters; and two nieces. Andrew’s family encourages those who wish to make a gift in his memory to support the charities of their choice.

Sally Malenka,
Robert Silverman and Beth Price,
Melissa Meighan,
Adam Jenkins,
Kate Cuffari,
Margot Berg,

This obituary was first published by the American Institute for Conservation in AIC News, March 2020.

(Full article can be found in the April -May 2020 "News in Conservation" Issue 77, p. 30-31)