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Textile conservator, Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation at work

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Pre-Order Magnetic Mounting Systems for Museums and Cultural Institutions and Save!

We are excited to announce that Gwen's new book, Magnetic Mounting Systems for Museums and Cultural Institutions, will be available in December and we are now taking pre-orders through April 15th at a 10% discount off the cover price. Order your copy today!

The book is an essential text for mount-makers, exhibit designers, museums professionals, curators, conservators, collections managers, archivists, and architects. It systematically explains magnetic behaviors and the procedures involved in developing magnetic mounting systems for artifacts. With actual case studies and over 80 photographic images and drawings, the book explores a broad range of applications, including artifact types and magnetic systems that can be employed and manipulated for uses in exhibition and storage.

Magnetic Mounting Systems for Museums and Cultural Institutions is an essential reference text for any reader planning or executing displays, including mount makers and exhibit installation teams within museums and the commercial exhibition industry. It is a must have for everyone who displays collections in museums of all sizes, galleries, archives, libraries and private collections. It will be beneficial to conservation students and any technical staff who wish to employ magnets in their proper fashion to insure the safety of objects they are installing or mounting.

Table of Contents

Additional information

  • Softcover
  • Over 400 pages
  • 59 case studies each with cross-sections and images
  • 16 chapters with extended glossary, appendixes and reference list
  • 44 tables
  • Chapters contain "how to's," "Useful tips" and "Wacky behavior"
  • Available May 2019
Learn more about magnets and their many uses in the new publications Magnetic Mounting Systems for Museums and Cultural Institutions. Available for purchase at www.spicerart.com/magnetbook.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Low-Tech Treatment for Small Areas of Visible Mold

The humidity many of us have experienced this summer due to torrential rains and heat sweeping across the country can easily lead to mold growth. Now in the wake of Hurricane Florence mold will be rampant as the flooding recedes. (For more on freezing see our earlier post.) It's important to be vigilant by monitoring humidity levels throughout your institution or home to prevent excessive moisture levels. Mold is not only a hazard for objects, it's also a danger to people.

If you've got a big mold problem, first fix the source of it and then call in professionals to remediate it. Poor drainage, foundation or wall cracks, leaking roofs or plumbing, lack of sufficient ventilation or air-conditioning all contribute to the spread of damaging mold.

If you have visible mold in less than 10 continuous square feet, you may be able to remediate it yourself with dehumidification and a low-tech water trap attached to your vacuum to capture the spores.

The water trap can be made of any glass or jar. The one we use in the studio is in the image below. It is important to ensure that it is well sealed around the openings and the tubes. Ethafoam (a strong, resilient, medium-density, closed-cell, white polyethylene foam which is acceptable for use in the preservation of objects) is really helpful for this. Gwen even carved out a stand for the glass to ensure it would not fall over. The other critical aspect is the ends of the two tubes inside the glass are above the water line. It is the vacuum's suction that forces the mold spores into the water i.e. trap, while not traveling into the vacuum cleaner.

The above photo illustrates how the water trap is connected to a vacuum. The right hand hose (with the blue end on it) is the one used to suck up the mold.

When finished, thoroughly clean all of the associated tools, mark them and save them together, including brushes.

It's very important to contain the spores, not spread them around (which is what regular vacuuming will do). Here's a step-by-step guide to what to do next and don't forget to wear an approved N95 respirator, gloves, and eye protection!

Captured mold

Gwen Spicer. When Water Strikes, It's a Freezer to the Rescue! March 2018.
Ibid. Mold on Pastel Portraits, why it grows and how it can be prevented. January 2017.
Idid. Mold in museum collections is the environmental "canary in a coal mine". September 2014.

Friday, September 7, 2018


We join our colleagues around the world in mourning the incalculable loss of Brazil's National Museum, which sustained the destruction of 90% of its collection in a fire that spread on September 2. As a result, one of the Americas' largest museums of natural history and anthropology, and the rich legacy of indigenous and immigrant populations is no more.

Screenshot from YouTube

An extensive article examining the event and its aftermath was published by Hyperallergic. As Popular Science reports, what happened in Rio is just the tip of the iceberg for many museums around the globe when it comes to disaster prevention.

The fire's cause is under investigation, however, two things are known for certain: smoke detectors in the building were not working and there was no sprinkler system. It's not such a big leap to envision the type of damage fire could bring to your own institution and we hope that the National Museum's fire caused every museum official to immediately check their fire detection and suppression systems, including hand-held fire extinguishers.

Detection and suppression systems, whether simple or sophisticated, are just two elements of a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan that must rely, first and foremost, on human diligence. Humans are the first line of defense, ensuring that electrical systems are up-to-date and functioning properly, that flammable materials are safely stored, that storage and work spaces are free of combustible materials, that plans are in place regarding emergency response, that staff and volunteers are trained to respond appropriately, and that first responders are made aware of the unique characteristics of museum buildings and their holdings.

If you need help creating or updating your emergency preparedness plans and procedures, there are many resources to turn to for help.

Meanwhile, the National Museum needs your help. If you have photos of the museum and/or its artifacts, consider sending them to The Museu Nacional staff at isabeladfrreitas@gmail.com. With any luck some photos will have legible labels which may help recover at least some data.

Additionally, museum studies students at UNIRIO, the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, are collecting photos in an effort to preserve the memory and create a virtual museum of what has been lost. Emails may also be sent to thg.museo@gmail.com. You can read more about this project, Students Are Collecting Photos to Remember Brazil’s Destroyed National Museum.

Wikipedia is also collecting images: upload by going to commons.wikimedia.org, follow the instructions in the left-hand sidebar to upload images and choose the category "Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro".

Aqui no SAC lamentamos a perda do Museu e percebemos o dor do Povo Brasileiro. Olhamos para um futuro renascimento do Museu, que vai servir como um Fênix cujo destino serrai de liderar uma animação da percepção da grande historia e das riquezas dos ecossistemas do Brasil.