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Thursday, May 16 • 4:00pm - 4:30pm
(New Tools and Techniques: Let’s Talk about Gels!) Teaching an Old Lab New Tricks: Introducing Gels to an Archaeological and Ethnographic Collection

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While gels are now a significant part of the museum conservation toolkit, until recently they were not regularly used by conservators at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum), who primarily work on archaeological and ethnographic objects. Studies on the use of gels, particularly for cleaning, have been largely focused on applications for paper-based works of art, and painted surfaces with varnishes or other coatings. Because of this, Penn Museum conservators did not often consider using gels in their treatments. This all changed when the lab was faced with several complex and challenging treatment projects that required thinking outside the box. Thanks to team members who had learned about the use of gels from Richard Wolbers at the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, the conservators working on these large projects eventually found solutions with gel cleaning. Their use has expanded the Penn Museum lab’s knowledge about gels and led to the development of a short workshop for the Conservation Department, taught by Professor Wolbers and tailored to the Museum’s collections. Because of this workshop, Penn Museum conservators are now using gels on a regular basis. This paper will highlight the use of gels at the Penn Museum through several case studies, including the deinstallation of two large-scale mud plaster Buddhist murals, the treatment of an ancient Egyptian painted wooden Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figure, and the treatment of ancient archaeological stone and ceramic artifacts for the opening of new galleries at the Penn Museum. The unique and often challenging nature of cleaning archaeological materials, and the ethics around how and what to remove from these objects, will be discussed, along with protocols developed for successful treatments.

avatar for Julia Commander

Julia Commander

Conservation Fellow, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Julia is currently an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Objects Conservation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, focusing on Egyptian materials. Julia graduated from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation in 2017 specializing in objects conservation with a preventive... Read More →
avatar for Tessa de Alarcon

Tessa de Alarcon

Project Conservator, Penn Museum
Tessa de Alarcon has been a Project Conservator at the Penn Museum since 2012. She received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2004 where she majored in studio art and minored in archaeology, and her M.A. from the UCLA/Getty Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic... Read More →

avatar for Alexis North

Alexis North

Project Conservator, Penn Museum
Alexis North is the Williams Project Conservator at the Penn Museum, currently working on the Museum's renovation of their Mexico and Central America gallery. She is a graduate of the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program, and has worked at the Brooklyn Museum, the Michael C. Carlos Museum... Read More →
avatar for Emily Brown-[PA]

Emily Brown-[PA]

Mellon Fellow in Decorative Arts and Sculpture, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Emily Brown is a graduate of the Winterthur-University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation and is currently a Mellon Fellow in Objects Conservation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Including her previous work at the Penn Museum, Emily has completed graduate internships at the... Read More →
avatar for Jessica Byler

Jessica Byler

Project Conservator, Penn Museum
avatar for Julia Lawson-[PA]

Julia Lawson-[PA]

Conservator, Penn Museum
avatar for Molly Gleeson-[PA]

Molly Gleeson-[PA]

Schwartz Project Conservator, Penn Museum
Molly Gleeson is the Schwartz Project Conservator at the Penn Museum. Since 2012 Molly has worked in the museum’s open conservation lab, which was recently renamed “The Artifact Lab: Conservation in Action.” In the Artifact Lab, she treats artifacts in full public view, interacts... Read More →
avatar for Nina Owczarek-[Fellow]

Nina Owczarek-[Fellow]

Associate Conservator, Penn Museum
Nina Owczarek is Associate Conservator at the Penn Museum. She is a graduate of the Conservation Center, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and has worked in various museums, regional centers and private collections both in the US and abroad before coming to the Penn Museum... Read More →

Thursday May 16, 2019 4:00pm - 4:30pm EDT
Nehantic/Pequot/Paugussett Rooms Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  General Session, New Tools and Techniques: Let’s Talk about Gels!
  • Ticketed Included in Main Registration
  • Authors in Publication Order Emily Brown,Julia Commander,Alexis North,Tessa de Alarcon,Jessica E. Byler
  • Abstract ID 19290
  • Tags gels,ethics,treatments