Texas Heritage, Volume 2, Number 2, Spring 1985 Page: 20
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Terry Rempel, paper conservator at the lab peers through a microscope at one of Kirkland's watercolors
of Texas rock art that was painted in the 1930's. Rempel has had to treat the paintings to
remove the grime of improper storage and sulfur deposits. In the background, author, John Peterson
holds an original piece of artwork of Kirklands, depicting prehistoric cave art. Photo by Elizabeth
Vair, courtesy of the Texas Historical Foundation.
and Roman gold, silver, and bronze
coins share storage with French, Russian,
and Swedish commemorative
medallions of lead, copper, silver, and
various alloys and platings. Every
piece in the collection is a unique problem,
and there are no pat treatments.
The condition of the collection led
William Reeder, Director of the museum,
to urge special attention. With
the help of the Swenson family, a fellowship
was established to assist in
treatment and exhibition, and the
funds have provided an assistant and
the time to develop strategies for treatment.
Storch is pioneering the use of
scanning electron microscopy for conservation,
and with it, is able to determine
the materials used and the products
of their corrosion. The treatments
are sometimes as simple as cleaning
with acetone, or as complex as using
chelates, solvents, and ultrasonic
baths to stop corrosion. Once treated,
they are coated with a thin film of
acrylic and stored in polyethylene bags
to protect them from further moisture,
oxidation, and overzealous handling.
The lab concentrates its energies on
entire collections like the Swenson
coins and the extensive holdings in
firearms and Peruvian textiles to further
the museum's emphasis on preserving
artifacts for research. Occasionally
though, an item comes along
that deserves singling out. When Bobbi
Studstill first joined the staff in 1983 as
an apprentice in textile conservation,
she was handed a ball of wadded up
cloth that workers had found buried in
the ground during their restoration of
the Nowotny Center at the University
"It looked like an old dirty rag. Sara
tried to scare me away when I first
came here, but I showed her!" said
The rag turned out to be an everyday
man's shirt from the 1860's, and further
research suggests that it may have belonged
to Uncle Charley, Custer's freed
slave and cook. Studstill wet cleaned
("You don't say washed in textile conservation")
the shirt eight times, eventually
straightened out the wrinkles,
and mounted each of the hundreds of
holes on cotton fabric. The task took
six months, but resulted in the preservation
of a unique artifact.
Besides, as Studstill commented, "It
didn't scare me away. It was character
building!" She has since worked with
the Green Curtain Dress and the Wedding
Gown that Vivien Leigh wore in
"Gone With the Wind," part of the
Theater Arts Collection at The University
of Texas, and is specializing now
in quilts and Peruvian textiles.
The University of Texas is blessed with
several departments dedicated to conservation.
The Huntington Art Gallery
concentrates on fine arts, and the
Harry Ranson Center has developed an
excellent lab for paper and photographs.
While the conservation lab at
Texas Memorial Museum often treats
objects for other departments and state
agencies, there is an effort to avoid
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Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Volume 2, Number 2, Spring 1985, periodical, April 1, 1985; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth46809/m1/20/?rotate=270: accessed October 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.