Janelle Beasley, Works on Paper Preparator, Eskenazi Museum of Art
In pursuit of a new level of care for the works-on-paper collection at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, I recently attended an introductory course in paper conservation at the International Preservation Studies Center (IPSC). Located in the small town of Mount Carroll, Illinois, the IPSC offers more than 75 courses in collections care and historic preservation. Since its founding in 1980, the center has become a wonderful resource for museum professionals, archivists, librarians, and all those tasked with preserving historical artifacts.
As the works-on-paper preparator at the EMA, my primary duty is to mat and frame the collection of prints, drawings, and photographs for exhibition and storage. Museum standards include using archival materials, framing the works with UV-filter glazing, and limiting their exposure to light. Given that paper degrades over time (to varying degrees depending on its quality), these preventative measures are crucial to prolonging the life of an object.
A damaged object, however, may require intervention by a conservator to improve its condition. In addition to internal degradation, paper can suffer from external sources such as poor storage conditions, exposure to light or humidity, acid migration, wear and tear, pollutants, and pest infestation. The instructors of “Care of Paper Artifacts,” Susan Russick and Tonia Grafakos of Northwestern University Libraries, provided a framework for understanding these issues as well as basic conservation treatments, including mending with Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste, surface cleaning, humidification and flattening, adhesive removal, and deacidification.
One benefit of attending the IPSC is getting to know other collections professionals. Our class of ten included representatives from a wide variety of institutions, such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and the Walt Disney Archives. All of us shared the common goal of providing care to the paper artifacts in our collections. Now that I am back in Bloomington and the museum is closed for renovations, I am focusing on re-housing works, updating data, and making minor repairs for a portion of the collection. Working with the EMA’s collection of 22,000 works on paper (and counting), it is safe to say there will always be a need for care.
Our art museum, located on the Bloomington campus of Indiana University, is situated right in the heart of limestone country. Bloomington and the surrounding area are known as sources for some of the best limestone in the world. Limestone from southern Indiana has been used to create such iconic structures as the Empire State Building and Yankee Stadium in New York and the Pentagon and the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. It is the predominant building material throughout the Indiana University Bloomington campus, which was named the second most beautiful campus in the country in a 2016USA Today poll. Every June we celebrate Limestone Month in Bloomington. It is an excellent opportunity to discuss limestone’s presence in the history of art, as well as some examples of limestone art in our collection.
Limestone has been used as a material in art since before antiquity. The Venus of Willendorf (28,000–25,000 BCE), one of the oldest and most famous surviving works of art, is made of Oolitic limestone (Oolitic is also the name of a town just south of Bloomington). The Great Pyramid of Giza was encased in Tura limestone, and the Great Sphinx of Giza, located in the pyramid complex, is made of Nummulitic limestone. (For an interesting and odd connection between the Great Pyramid of Giza and Indiana, read up on the failed attempt to create a limestone replica of the pyramid in Needmore, Indiana, in the 1970s.) Use of limestone can also be found in Sumerian, Egyptian, Cypriot, Greek, and Roman cultures, as well as medieval Europe, and China.
Two early examples from the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection include a Servant Figure of a Brewer, an Egyptian statuette dating to the 5th Dynasty (ca. 2,565–2,420 BCE) and Striding Young Man, a Greek kouros (a statue of a standing nude youth popular during the Archaic period), which dates to 500–450 BCE.
Servant Figure of a Brewer, Egyptian, Old Kingdom, 5th Dynasty, ca. 2565-2430 BCE. Limestone and paint. H. 7 7/8 in. (20.0 cm). 77.77.
Striding Young Man (Kouros), Cypriote, ca. 500-450 BCE. Limestone, paint. H. 4 3/4 in (12.1cm), W. 1 5/8 in. (4.1cm). V.G. Simkovitch Collection, 63.105.113
A more recent example of limestone sculpture in our collection is Peasant (La Paysanne) by the French artist Marcel Damboise (1903–1992), which you can read more about here.
The museum also owns a beautiful print by Indiana University Professor Emeritus of Photography Jeffrey Wolin, from his Stone Country series. Just this year, an updated version of Wolin’s book Stone Country: Then and Now, was released by IU Press. It serves as an artistic and informative document of the limestone industry and quarries of southern Indiana.
As the IU Eskenazi Museum of Art prepares for a $30 million renovation, set to be completed by 2019, we are often asked why the renovation will take a full two years. Part of the answer is the monumental task of packing and moving a major collection of art. To explain the process better, Emma Kessler, the museum’s curatorial assistant for the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas gives us an inside look into the process.
Due to the $30 million renovation of the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University set to begin this summer, we must move our collection of more than 45,000 objects to an off-site facility. While the museum closed its doors to the public on May 15, the packing of the collection, which began last year, will continue. It will take many months to safely move the collection so that the renovation can begin, and many months after the renovation is completed to reinstall the collection.
The packing process began its planning phase over a year ago. Given its size, as well as the value, fragility, and diversity of objects, the museum’s collection requires a packing process that is organized and executed in a very precise manner. Packing began with our African, Oceanic, and Americas (AOA) collection and is now underway with our holdings of ancient art, Asian art, works on paper, and European and American paintings and sculptures.
The first step in this process is a complete inventory of the collection. While inventories are done periodically, and a record is kept any time an object is put on display, loaned to another institution, or otherwise moved, surprises still pop up, especially when doing something as comprehensive as moving the entire collection piece by piece. To complete the inventory, every storage unit, shelf, and drawer was checked against both computer and paper records to make sure everything is up-to-date. It is also important to ensure that every object has a photograph accompanying its record in our database, as well as a physical tag recording the object’s accession number. A packing report is made for each object as well. It is displayed on the box or crate made for that item, allowing for easy identification while in storage.
Once the inventory process is complete, each object requires a condition report. With every object in our collection being moved, it is necessary to assess condition before packing, moving, and storage for an extended period of time. While this is a time-consuming process, it has a number of benefits, including aiding in future conservation efforts and drawing attention to any specialized care an object needs when being packed or during storage. For example, in 2014 we acquired a fantastic collection of art from Kenya. Among these objects are a number of skirts and aprons made from animal hide, a material that is quite susceptible to mold. Therefore, these items (and others like them) will need extra monitoring to make sure there are no issues.
After the inventory and conservation examination is complete, an object is ready to be packed. Whenever an item is moved or packed a digital record is created in our database, along with a backup paper record. We discovered that during this process it is extremely important to have someone on site who knows the collection well. As the curatorial assistant for the African, Oceanic, and Americas collection, I have been spending my days in the storage area recording each item and assisting with any additional questions, including those concerning numbering issues, materials, safe packing practices, and various oddities. Some issues may not occur to someone unfamiliar with the collection. For example, certain objects need to be packed together, while others need to be packed alone.
The actual packing of objects may sound very straightforward: you take the object, wrap it in bubble wrap, put it in a box, and move on to the next object, right? However, it is nowhere near that simple. The objects in the museum range in size, shape, material, and fragility, and the objects in the African, Oceanic, and Americas collection are some of the most diverse. They range in size from six-foot masks to 0.2-inch gold weights. There are also a wide variety of materials, including wood, fiber, bone, shell, feathers, hair, metal, and plastic. Often a single object will include several different materials. The size, shape, and materials used as well as any condition issues need to be taken into account when packing the object.
While some items fit into standard size boxes, many require the creation of a specialized box or crate. While they may look like simple large boxes from the outside, they are very intricate on the inside, with close attention paid to every detail. The object must be secured in such a way that there is no chance of it moving around as the crate is transported. As a result, each crate has a number of specially made supports for the particular object it holds. In addition, the materials used for these supports (or anything that touches the object) must be of archival quality and acid-free. Also, the materials used can vary considerably based on the individual qualities of the object that is being packed. Some items in our collection have sticky materials on their outer surfaces—for these objects tissue paper will not work, as it will stick to the object. Instead, a soft archival fabric-like material is used. While this is a lengthy process, it has some added benefits, as we have been able to improve our storage methods in many ways. For example, within our textile storage, new containers and protective coverings were created for all of our leather and hide objects. This is an improvement over how they were initially stored.
Within our encyclopedic collection of more than 45,000 objects there are a myriad of different sizes, materials, and individual needs when packing and storing the collection. While it is a monumental challenge to pack up a collection of this size, it is also an opportunity to reassess our holdings and improve methods of storage and care for our collection. In that way, it is a great moment for ensuring that our collection will be properly preserved and available for Indiana University students, visiting scholars, and the general public for years to come. We look forward to unpacking our collection and reinstalling it in the newly renovated museum to provide a new way for everyone to engage with original works of art.
Two major works from the IU Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection are now on view in the Dallas / Fort Worth area.
After premiering at the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain, Between Heaven and Hell: The Drawings of Jusepe de Ribera recently opened at the Meadows Museum of Art in Dallas, Texas. Curated by Gabriele Finaldi, former Associate Director of Conservation and Research at the Museo del Prado, and current Director of the National Gallery in London, the exhibition celebrates the first catalogue raisonné of Ribera’s drawings. The aim of the catalogue is to give a complete vision of Ribera as a draughtsman and to document all of the known drawings by his hand (around 160 in total). Among the drawings in the catalogue and exhibition is Saint Sebastian seated and attached to a Tree from the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s permanent collection. The drawing is highlighted in the catalogue as “One of Jusepe de Ribera’s most beautiful drawings, this work demonstrates the artist’s expert handling of the chalk medium for shading and contour, his understanding of human anatomy, and his dramatic use of contortion in the figure’s sinuous pose.” We are very happy to contribute to this new look at a major Spanish artist. Other loaning institutions beyond the Eskenazi, include the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), British Museum (London), Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge), and the Istituto Centrale per la Grafica (Rome). The exhibition at the Meadows is on view now through June 11, 2017.
Stuart Davis’s masterpiece Swing Landscape, a perennial favorite of visitors to the Eskenazi Museum of Art, is currently on loan to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in nearby Fort Worth, Texas. Produced under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration, the 1938 mural portrays the Gloucester, Massachusetts, waterfront through the lens of Davis’s exuberant brand of abstraction. As the New York Times’s art critic Holland Cotter recently wrote, “we see bits of Gloucester—ships, buoys, lobster traps—but basically we’re in a whole new universe of jazzy patterns and blazing colors, a landscape defined not by signs but by sensations: sound, rhythm, friction.” Swing Landscape recently anchored Stuart Davis: In Full Swing, a major retrospective organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Swing Landscape will remain on view at the Amon Carter Museum throughout the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s renovation, which is set to be completed by fall of 2019.
What is a Rainwork?
Rainworks are rain-activated street art that are completely invisible when dry, and only appear when they are wet. Rainworks are designed to make rainy days happier. They are created by using a super hydrophobic spray called Rainworks Invisible Spray. Rainworks typically last 2 to 4 months.
Who Created Rainworks?
Artists named Peregrine Church and Xack Fischer developed Rainworks in their hometown Seattle, WA (ie. rain capital U.S.A). After a video of Rainworks went viral on the Internet, Rainworks have appeared all over the world.
What Is The Largest Rainwork Ever Created?
The Indiana University Eskenazi Museum of Art in Bloomington, Indiana, commissioned Church and Fischer to install a Rainwork in the plaza in front of the art museum. The result is Mandala, the largest Rainwork ever created, at almost thirty-four feet in diameter. Mandala was installed in eleven hours by Church and Fischer, with additional assistance from Emelie Flower and Abe Morris. It was unveiled before a crowd of hundreds who launched almost 150 water balloons at the Rainwork to make it visible. Find more photos of the installation and unveiling of Mandala below. Church and Fischer are also teaching workshops on how to create Rainworks during their stay in Bloomington. The IU Eskenazi Museum of Art is actively working with organizations and individuals to create more Rainworks in Bloomington, to use this project to take art out into the community and make art a fun and surprising part of people’s daily lives. Many thanks for Peregrine, Xack for their brilliant ideas, and for bringing Rainworks to our community.
Watch a video of the Rainworks unveiling at the IU Eskenazi Museum of Art:
Find out more information about Rainworks at Rain.works, including how to create your own.
Rainworks at the Eskenazi Museum of Art is made possible in part by the generous support of Linda Watson. Additional thanks to IU Eskenazi Museum of Art director David Brenneman, and the entire museum staff, the Monroe County Public Library, the IU Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts, and the City of Bloomington.
Questions? Contact Abe Morris at the IU Eskenazi Museum of Art at: firstname.lastname@example.org
This summer the Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University is exhibiting Spotlights: Five Views into the Museum’s Collection. Nan Brewer, the museum’s Lucienne M. Glaubinger Curator of Works on Paper chose a rare book of photos by nineteenth-century photographer Julia Margaret Cameron for her section of the exhibition.
The wife of a retired jurist and mother of six, Julia Margaret Cameron (British, 1815–1879) took up photography at the age of forty-eight. One of the medium’s early pioneers, Cameron is widely recognized for her pictorial artistry. Born in Calcutta, India, Cameron traveled widely during her lifetime, studying in France, and living in England, before her death in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) at age sixty-four. The great aunt of author Virginia Woolf, Cameron brushed shoulders with many famous and historical figures of the time.
In 1874, she created an album of 101 miniature versions of her earlier works as “a board of ship companion for my beloved son Hardinge Hay Cameron.” Miniature Edition of Mrs. Cameron’s Photographs from the Life is a rare treasure, available for view in Spotlights on individual pages as it was disbound for repair.
The album was created by making small copy photos from images that spanned ten years (all are albumen prints mounted on cardstock). As a personal memento, the album reads like a visual scrapbook of Cameron’s family, friends, neighbors, and members of the Victorian intelligentsia. Among her subjects are naturalist Charles Darwin, the great poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and other colorful characters such as W. G. Palgrave, the Jesuit missionary who would often disguise himself during his travels to then, forbidden lands, and Dejatch Alamayou, the only person outside of the royal family to be buried at Windsor Castle. Interspersed with these portraits are lyrical allegorical vignettes and illustrations of themes from classical mythology, the Bible, and English literature, which Cameron recreated stylistically based on prototypes from Renaissance and Pre-Raphaelite painting traditions.
We hope you take this opportunity to visit the museum and see Cameron’s photography and the rest of our Spotlights exhibition for yourself. It is on view through September 4, 2016. If you have any questions please contact us at email@example.com.
In January, solar panels were installed on the roof of the IU Art Museum to generate enough power to offset the electricity used by our iconic sculpture Light Totem, created in 2007 by Rob Shakespeare, IU professor emeritus in Lighting Design. This project was the initiative of the IU Art Museum Green Team led by the efforts of Jeanne Leimkuhler. The project was funded by a grant from the Indiana University Student Sustainability Council, with additional funding provided by Facility Operations, a unit of the Office of the Vice President for Capital Planning and Facilities, and the Office of Sustainability at Indiana University. This project is a tremendous example of collaboration between students, faculty, and staff across multiple departments at Indiana University. We hope that Light Totem can now be seen not only as a shining beacon for the arts at Indiana University, but also as an inspiration for future endeavors to make our campus and world a greener and more sustainable place.
“The request was for a PV [photovoltaic] system that would offset 100% of Light Totem‘s annual energy consumption, which is estimated at 4700kWH. The system installed is estimated to produce 5083kWH annually, so our goal is exceeded. We will be able to track actual energy production to see if the system performs as expected.”- Eric Goy, Senior Electric Engineer at Indiana University, Facility Operations, a unit of the Office of the Vice President for Capital Planning and Facilities
“There is a lot to like about the project from a sustainability perspective, but I’m particularly impressed by the cross-campus collaboration that allowed this to happen. The project started with the Art Museum’s Green Team proposal to the Student Sustainability Council. After the council voted to fund the project, Vice President of Capital Planning and Facilities Tom Morrison, generously supplemented the council’s contribution, which allowed this project to happen from a financial standpoint. It is a great story of students, faculty, and staff collaborating to bring more renewable energy to IU.”- Andrew Predmore Associate Director of Sustainability, Office of Sustainability, Indiana University
“The Student Sustainability Council is proud to have supported this project with the student sustainability fund. Our member organizations were in unanimous support of this exciting project; it is an iconic part of the Bloomington campus and the project makes a statement about the importance of transitioning to renewable energy use.”- James French, Indiana University Student Sustainability Council
“The Greening of the Light Totem was brought about by the IU student body and now they will know, as they are enjoying the ever-changing colored wall at night, that the sculpture is being powered with clean energy from the sun. As we all move toward a more sustainable energy future, it is exciting to see the IU Art Museum leading the way with this very colorful project.” – Jeanne Leimkuhler, former IU Art Museum Green Team President and Works on Paper Preparator