Thursday, 2 July 2015

Adventures at AIC—My Experiences Attending and Presenting at My First American Institute for Conservation Conference

   My last year as a student in University College London's (UCL) MSc in Conservation for Archaeology and Museums program included an internship placement at the Wallace Collection in central London. There, I was able to conduct conservation treatment work on the Oriental Arms and Armor collection under the supervision of metalwork conservator, Seoyoung Kim. Most of the work I participated in throughout this internship concerned cleaning the Collection for catalogue photography.
A picture of me testing the dry ice cleaning equipment prior to
using it on the objects.

  Throughout this project, I was fortunate enough to be able to be a part of the cleaning of the Oriental Helmets--a magnificent group that numbers 74. In the 1980s, the helmets were coated with petroleum jelly as a protective coating. The coating eventually degraded, interacting with the copper rings, creating a green, waxy corrosion product. The aged coating darkened and obscured the patterns on the mail and also made it less flexible. Conventionally, White Spirit/Stoddard Solvent would be used to remove this coating, however, the amount of solvent needed and the time it would take to remove the coating was not ideal. To reduce the use of solvents and in the interests of saving time, the ColdJet® i3 Microclean® dry ice shaving unit was hired to aid in the cleaning of the mail on the helmets. During this time, I was kindly permitted to conduct research for my MSc degree dissertation.

A picture of the setup used for the dry ice cleaning of the
furniture mounts.
   After my graduation from UCL's conservation program, Seoyoung and I decided to submit an abstract of our work on the Oriental Helmets Collection and my dissertation experiments for the American Institute for Conservation's (AIC) 43rd Annual Meeting themed, "Practical Philosophy or Making Conservation Work".   We were both very excited when our abstract was accepted, and I was especially excited since this would be my very first AIC conference.

   I was a bit intimidated by the fact that I would be speaking at my first AIC conference, but I realize now that my worries were for naught. The conference was an amazing experience, filled with interesting research, productive networking opportunities and fun social activities. The talks for the conference took place throughout May14th-16th in Miami, Florida. I was able to attend 23 different talks on a wide range of topics, including sustainability in conservation, the use of reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) in conservation, innovations in laser cleaning, the conservation treatment of radioactive objects, the varied uses for gellan gum in conservation and new coatings for the protection of outdoor bronze sculpture.

During the conference, I was able to spend some
time exploring Miami with friends.
    Aside from the talks, there were a multitude of other social activities which fostered engagement between attendees. These activities included opening and closing receptions, poster presentations, group luncheons and also discussions. Throughout all of this, I was able to meet new colleagues and connect with old friends while exploring Miami.

    My talk was scheduled for the last day of the conference, and although I was nervous at the beginning, I felt calm knowing that I was presenting research in good company. Overall, the AIC conference was an amazing experience that I hope to get the chance to present at again someday. I greatly encourage all others who study conservation to submit abstracts and convey their research to the wider conservation community--it certainly helped me professionally as well as personally. For more information on my presentation and research, please make sure to check out the AIC Postprints Publication which should be available in Spring 2016, or keep posted on the past and future meetings at

The wonderful, sunny view right outside the conference hall!



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