Category Archives: Events

Conservation First Fridays

Emerging Professionals in Conservation is happy to present Conservation First Friday, a conservation professionals happy hour that will take place from 6pm to 9pm on the first Friday of every month. This series of events is intended to be a fun and casual way to catch up with colleagues and to meet new people in the field. Events will be held in different locations throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.

Please do not hesitate to recommend your favorite bar on Facebook or by replying to this blog. Places with happy hour specials, games, and good food are of course a plus!

Conservation First Friday schedule, 2014:

October 3rd – Revival129 East 15th Street (between Irving Place and 3rd Avenue) New York, NY 10003 (212) 253-8061

May 9th – Bua, 122 St. Marks Place, Manhattan

First Fridays in 2013

September 27, Washington Commons, 434 Park Place, Brooklyn

August 9th – Park Bar, 15 East 15th St., Manhattan

June 7th – Bar(n), 76 St Marks Avenue in Brooklyn.

April 5 – Camp, 179 Smith St., Brooklyn

March 1st – Little Town, 118 East 15th St., Manhattan

February 1st – Full Circle Bar, 318 Grand Street, Williamsburg

NYRAC Hosts Robin Hodgson’s Heated Suction Table Workshop

Written by Christian Hernandez

Robin Hodgson (center left) demonstrating the suction table that she custom builds.

Robin Hodgson (center left) demonstrating the suction table that she custom builds.

Over the summer, I had the pleasure of helping to plan a workshop for a heated suction table designed by conservator-engineer- Renaissance woman Robin Hodgson. It may have been logistically difficult to plan, but—as is often the case—working with friends in the conservation community makes everything worthwhile.

I first met Robin Hodgson at the 2012 American Institute for Conservation’s annual meeting in Albuquerque, NM. As a fashion and textiles conservation student, I was first drawn to her latex skirt and spiked metal heels, which I later found out she custom fabricates out of stainless steel in her shop. She was in the exhibitor’s hall speaking about the virtues of her suction tables, but couldn’t demonstrate them because there were no proper outlets. Having only used a cold suction table, I immediately wanted to see the heating element in action, especially considering how useful this table would be for evenly transferring large swathes of adhesive onto textiles. I decided it would be worth my while to try and set up a workshop in New York for myself, other textile conservators, and interested individuals in other specializations.

After several months of back and forth, two one-day workshops were organized for October 2nd and 3rd at the Textile Conservation Lab at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. Each day was attended by both emerging and seasoned professionals who specialized in a variety of materials. On the day that I attended, the presence of books and paper, photograph, object, and textile conservators provided a refreshing look into specialties other than the one I had been so focused on in school. Similar to what sometimes happens at conferences, this environment allowed people who would otherwise never meet to talk shop over a mutual passion. (Personally, I had a lively discussion with a rare books conservator about the ethical need to keep some books in circulation and in useable condition regardless of how old it may be.)

In the morning, Robin started the workshop with a lecture on the design and function of the suction tables, as well as a short history of how she got into the business. Having designed and developed these tables herself, there was seemingly no detail too small to fuss over and improve upon – and her passion and knowledge showed.  She had designed the tables not only to be lightweight and with more even all-over heating, but also to be capable of seamlessly fitting together to create a larger work surface.  In the afternoon, Robin gave demonstrations so that participants could test their samples on the tables. We experimented with a variety of materials and treatments, including: using wet and dry blotter paper, flattening fabric or clean them while folded; and cleaning dirty textiles, papers, and photographs. Some pieces really showed success while others needed more time and experimentation to find the right technique.

Test cleaning a stained textile on the heated suction table.

Test cleaning a stained textile on the heated suction table.

Staining from the textile is pulled onto the blotter.

Staining from the textile is pulled onto the blotter.

With two well-attended days of busy activity and plenty of inquiries about hot suction table purchases and future workshops, I feel that this workshop was a success!

I would like to thank Julia Sybalsky, conservator at The American Museum of Natural History and EPiC coordinator, and Marlene Eidleheit, director of the Textile Conservation Laboratory and NYRAC board member, for helping to organize this workshop. I would also like to thank Robin Hodgson for facilitating this workshop and designing such great equipment! To learn more about this please visit

Watercolor Workshop at Kremer Pigments

photo courtesy of

EPiC will be holding a special workshop on watercolors at Kremer Pigments on August 5th, 2012.  The workshop will be instructed by Kremer’s Technical Advisor extraordinaire, Becca Pollak, and will provide a demo and hands-on practice in the process of making watercolor paints from start to finish.

The intent of the workshop is twofold: first, to instruct participants in the process of making watercolors and to allow them to better understand the influence of pigment choice and other factors on their handling and behavior; and second, to allow participants to make for themselves a versatile palette of high-quality watercolors that is chosen to meet the needs of their work in conservation.

Each person will finish the workshop with a 14 color half-pan set. In order to conduct the program within the space and time available, a generalized polychrome palette will be chosen collectively before the workshop takes place. However, it may also be possible to accommodate a very limited number of individualized requests if they are made in advance.

Due to popular demand, we will be offering two sessions of the workshop. The morning session will run from 9 am to 1 pm, and the afternoon session will run from 2:30 pm to 6:30 pm. Space is limited to 7 participants per class. A $65 fee is charged to cover a portion of the cost of materials and their preparation. Please bring a check or cash at the door.

Click on the links to register for the Morning Session or for the Afternoon Session.  Hope to see you there!

Both session are now full.  Please contact if you would like to be added to the wait list.

The Painted King: Art, Activism, and Authenticity in Hawai’i

Wirtten by Cybele Tom

The excessive use of passive voice in treatment reports, is now something of an inside joke among conservators. Objects are always having things done to them by a nameless entity. This authorial device is part of a conservator’s skill in covering up his or her tracks. Joking aside, the approach is somewhat misleading: conservators are obviously highly influential actors in the life of an object. And as much as conservation is a scientifically-minded field, the individuality of the conservator plays a part. This fact is one of the many reasons I find The Painted King — a new book written entirely in the first person by a conservator — so remarkable, refreshing, and visionary.

The Painted King tells the fascinating story of how a conservator and local community together determined and carried out the conservation of a monumental bronze sculpture of the first king of Hawai’i, Kamehameha, located in a town on the island of Hawai’i. Outdoors since its casting in the mid-19th century, a survivor of shipwreck, and bearing over twenty campaigns of paint, the sculpture had its fair share of condition issues when Glenn Wharton, the author of the book, first examined it. In addition, it carried powerful significance for the local community; the many layers of paint gave testimony to this.

One should read the book for oneself — it’s engaging and thought-provoking — but I’d like to share some general comments. First, you may think me strange, but I see The Painted King, and particularly the personal voice with which Wharton has decided to share the story with others, as a kind of counter-balance or alternative approach to objective styles of documentation, now the norm. (I refer to photos, detailed lists of components and measurements, annotated illustrations, installation instructions, etc.) Of course, the latter have their important place — the treatment of the Kamehameha sculpture incorporated all of these plus many modes of scientific analysis — but a first-person narrative by a conservator is perhaps akin to an artist interview. At a period where the artistic process is expanding, and conservators and museums are increasingly implicated as collaborators in that process, a more holistic look at conservators’ intent is arguably well-founded.

Wharton, who now is time-based media conservator at MoMA and on faculty at NYU’s Department of Museum Studies, recently launched the book with a noticeably cross-disciplinary crowd that included conservators, curators, sociologists, and others. Speaking in a befitting Hawai’ian shirt rendered in New York City’s signature black and grey, Wharton opened by saying that the events recounted in his book had been pivotal and life-changing for him. Behind the podium was the Hawai’ian state flag that had for years hung from the courthouse that shared the square with the Kamehameha monument — a gift from the Kohala community to Wharton. Clearly, the community had been profoundly affected by Wharton’s presence and participation as well.

There are some who will sniff at the idea of a conservation treatment decided by democracy. But it doesn’t take a genius to see that there are many kinds of art in our world, and many more ways in which we — as individuals, as communities, as stakeholders — relate to the art around us. One effect of the treatment of the Kamehameha monument is empowerment of community. And in writingThe Painted King, Wharton shows us, the conservation community, what is possible.

I’m keen for more writing from Wharton, and in the immediate future, I’m looking forward to AIC’s annual meeting in May, which is focused on outreach and advocacy. Wharton will be on a panel discussion on artist interviews. I hope to meet some of you there.

 To purchase a copy of Glenn’s book, visit

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Fellows Colloquia

The annual Metropolitan Museum of Art fellows colloquia will be taking place every Tuesday morning from March to mid-May.  Please select the link below for more information.

Metropolitan Museum Fellows Spring Colloquia

EPiC Dioramas At the American Museum of Natural History

By Greg Bailey

What is a natural history diorama? In the technical sense, it is an assemblage of fur, antler, glass, metal, natural fiber, rock, wax, paper, paint, and, often, many other materials. This curious blend of nature and artifice is most commonly associated with museum displays of the mid-twentieth century.  Born of an age when 3-D movies and color photography were only just entering popular culture, natural history dioramas sought to combine scientific realism with a measure of virtual reality.

The American Museum of Natural History perfected the medium in the 1940s and ‘50s, when the iconic dioramas in the Hall of North American Mammals were created over the course of more than a dozen years. Drawing on the talents of artists, scientists, and curators, the dioramas combine equal parts naturalism and illusionism.

Yet as any wide-eyed child with her nose pressed against the glass can attest, the dioramas are more than the sum of their parts. They offer a magical window into other realms—far-away spaces inhabited by animals impervious to the human gaze: languid jaguars surveying ochre canyons at dawn, skittering skunks perched atop outcrops of rock, hummingbirds arrested mid-sip at the blooms of an azalea.

The jaguar diorama in the Hall of North American Mammals.

On Thursday, January 26, sixteen EPiC members joined AMNH Associate Conservator in Natural Science Conservation Elizabeth Nunan and her colleagues Bethany Palumbo and Julia Sybalsky for a discussion of the on-going (but nearly completed) efforts to preserve the materials and the magic of the dioramas.

The AMNH team presented conservation solutions to specific problems with the animal specimens—such as the re-treatable dyeing of faded furs—as well as approaches to re-establishing the illusionistic look of the dioramas—including the creation of new ‘snow’ for the winter scenes.

Erin Anderson holds before and after treatment images of the Alaskan Brown Bear, with the bear himself in the background.  The faded fur was re-dyed with Orasol dyes.

Various mock-ups for fake snow.

The conservators discussed the rewards and occasional challenges of collaborating with curators, private conservators, professional taxidermists, volunteers, and artists to achieve their goals. They also shared insight into working with specimens previously treated with toxic chemicals, and emphasized the importance of photographic and written documentation recording current work along with evidence of previous campaigns of restoration.

Afterwards, members of EPiC retired to a nearby saloon to debate methodological approaches to the conservation of natural history collections.  Also, there was beer.

conservators + beer = good rollicking fun

Find out more about the conservation of the dioramas in the Hall of North American Mammals:


EPiC’s Inaugural Event

This gallery contains 3 photos.

On January 10th, Emerging Professionals in Conservation launched its inaugural event with a lab tour hosted by Harriet Irgang Alden of Rustin Levenson Art Conservation Associates, located in Chelsea.  Founded in 1980 by Rustin Levenson, RLACA treats paintings from the … Continue reading