TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Summary
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  01-27-2001 on 08:20 a.m.
Sara has asked me to do the honors in this summary. It will not be what she might have done but I'll do my best.

First, I want to thank Sara for being willing to undertaken the tasks of the host of this salon. You will notice that her role as "expert" made it likely that most posts were questions directed at her. So her workload needs to be acknowledged as likely having been heavier than that most of our salon hosts have borne.

Thanks are also likely due to The Textile Museum and to its Director, Ursula McCracken, for permitting Sara to serve as a Turkotek salon host. The fact that a number of our posts here question TM policies and practices is mostly the result of the fact that, for a number of us on Turkotek, the TM is our closest and most important rug and textile resource and we use it heavily and have strong feelings about it.

Sara began with a complaint she has heard frequently: that museums don't light the pieces in their exhibitions at light levels that permit them to be seen and enjoyed. She indicated that all light damages textiles and acknowledged that light standards are often arbitrary in the sense that they mark off a single standard and that different ones might be tolerable for different pieces. Wendel Swan argued that his own experiences with lighting suggest that there are more inexpensive lighting strategies available to museums than they often seem interested in exploring.

In the related discussion of the frequent banning of flash photography, Steve Price presented calculations that seemed to suggest that negligible damage would result even from unrestricted flash photography. Sara Wolf and Yon Bard indicated that flash is often restricted in part for non-conservation reasons such as wanting to sell images but I don't think Sara responded to Steve's plausible calculations.

A number of aspects of access to museum collections were discussed. Comparisons were made concerning apparent discrepancies between the access offered by different museums. Sara said that most restrictions in this area are the result of limited museum staff and funds.

Wendel suggested that the TM has access to but did not seem interested in using a rather knowledgeable collector community, many of whom would be willing to be recruited to supply needed temporary museum staff for selected occasions (e.g., rug and textile mornings in which TM materials would be used). Sara also said access is being increased through digital documentation of the TM collections and that these are available in the TM Library. Some of us who have used the digital images described the increased availability to date as very modest.

Yon Bard and others suggested that museums with a great more material than they can exhibit in reasonable intervals might consider whether de-accession might not be appropriate. I cautioned that this was rumored to be a difficult process, at least at the TM, and Sara confirmed this, ever so concretely by usefully describing the very demanding TM de-accession process.

Museums generally have quite limited financial resources and this was often offered as a likely reason why some demands, such as those raised by impecunious collectors, do not meet with more favorable responses. Some others of us thought that there was an equal shortage of imagination and a willingness to consider alternative ways of doing things within the museum community.

Sara also cited what seemed like a large number of requests for access as a source of museum workload. There was skepticism about whether her estimates were based on records or perhaps on more impressionistic data.

Towards the end, I asked Sara for her recommendations concerning moth prevention and eradication and about washing detergents appropriate for rugs and textiles.

Sara recommended "freezing" as the current "standard of care" moth strategy. Surprisingly, to me, she seemed not to question the potential efficaciousness of moth balls and chemical sprays like SLA but advised against the use of these latter treatments primarily because they are potentially harmful to humans. Steve Price elaborated very usefully on why freezing works to destroy moths.

With detergents Sara still thinks Orvus is best. She is not impressed with some of the alarmist views expressed about it, especially the suggestion that it is or becomes acidic.

The largish number of posts in this salon suggests that Sara's area of professional work is of interest to collectors too. Thanks to all who shared their views with us in what I think is relatively rare occurrence: a direct exchange of views between a conservator and a group of collectors.

Thanks, Sara.

R. John Howe

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