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Tuesday, May 30 • 9:30am - 10:00am
(Opening General Session) When An Airplane Acts Like a Painting: Applying Established Conservation Methodologies to Ephemeral Aircraft Materials

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Large scale, functional material culture has long suffered the onus of being considered somewhat exempt from established stewardship practices. This is primarily the result of the impracticalities and fiscal limitations of caring for macro artifacts but also the deference that most conservators have paid to traditional restoration practices. This paper will illustrate one example of how a conservator's understanding of materials and modes of deterioration has altered long-established practices for treating ephemeral materials. Doped fabric is not often found in the fine art world, but is ubiquitous to the collection at the National Air and Space Museum (NASM). Doping is the practice of applying a waterproof coating to fabric which also serves to shrink the material over a rigid structure. A doped surface is traditionally made of multiple coats of clear cellulosic resins with light blocking layers and final decorative finishes over a cotton or linen fabric. Because of the inherent chemical instability of the cellulosic resins and the requirement for scheduled inspections of the structures beneath, doped fabric materials have long been considered to be dispensable and expected to be replaced during routine operational maintenance or during a restoration. However, when viewed as a multi-media artifact with inherent preservation challenges similar to those in other realms of conservation, a new approach can be devised. Comparing the similarities and recognizing the differences between doped fabric structures and canvas paintings inspired a new treatment methodology for preserving historic aircraft fabric. This concept represents a major departure from the long-standing restoration traditions at NASM. A new approach to preserving doped fabric structures will be illustrated through the treatment of the control surfaces on a World War Two Martin B-26 Marauder, named "Flak Bait”. The case study will detail materials analysis, decision-making processes, encountered problems and solutions, loss compensation and varnish selection. It will also emphasize how the benefits of cross-disciplinary collaboration, coupled with practical research has influenced these innovative and adaptive treatments and altered established methodologies.

Speaker(s)
avatar for Lauren Horelick

Lauren Horelick

Object Conservator, National Air and Space Museum
Lauren Horelick has a BFA in Sculpture from the San Francisco Art Institute, a BA in art conservation and anthropology from the University of Delaware, and an MA in archaeological and ethnographic conservation from University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA)/Getty Conservation... Read More →

Co-Author(s)
avatar for Malcolm Collum-[PA]

Malcolm Collum-[PA]

Engen Chair of Conservation, National Air and Space Museum
Malcolm Collum has been the Chief Conservator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum since 2008. Trained as a conservator of fine art, Collum applies the same preservation philosophies and methodologies utilized in the art world towards the conservation of historic technological... Read More →


Tuesday May 30, 2017 9:30am - 10:00am
Regency Ballroom Ballroom Level, West Tower

Attendees (471)