Our Man in Haiti
June 24, 2010
Hugh Shockey, one of American Art's conservators, recently returned from Haiti where he was helping to preserve some of the country's artworks after the recent earthquake there. Here is one of the reports he filed while he was there. For additional coverage visit our Flickr set of Shockey's photographs and our Facebook page.
Day 11 (June 16, 2010)
Today was the day I've been waiting for. After setting up the objects conservation lab I finally had the chance to do treatment in the space. After filling out the appropriate registration paperwork, the materials were moved to the lab and it was time to proceed with treatment.
The inaugural object to be treated was a small reclining figure attributed to the Taíno people. The Taínos were the indigenous inhabitants of Hispaniola and would have been the people who greeted Columbus. The sculpture was broken into four parts as a result of the earthquake. The treatment began with cleaning followed by mending. I had to stop the treatment at this point since we have yet to receive the conservation filling material we had ordered. And we haven't found a substitute for it on the island. I moved on to another small sculpture of a snake, also attributed to the Taíno people. Someone had previously repaired the work but it was broken in the earthquake. Therefore, it was necessary to remove the old adhesive before I could start the new repair. I did this by creating solvent chambers for the areas with adhesive and left them overnight.
In the meantime Vicki Lee, Head of Conservation, Maryland State Archives was beginning her first object treatment as well. It was a significant historical document once belonging to General Alexandre Pétion (who was later president of Haiti). With her experience at the Archives treating the document is right up Vicki’s alley. While not as long a day as yesterday, today was very productive and rewarding for everyone.
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