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Thursday, May 16 • 3:30pm - 4:00pm
34. Remaining Flexible: Managing and Monitoring Elastomers Within a Contemporary Collection

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This poster serves to summarize a year-long project currently being undertaken at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden explicitly tailored to address complex rubber and elastomer objects in the Museum collection. Funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, Claire Taggart, the 2018-2019 post-graduate fellow in contemporary art conservation, is presently developing collections management systems protocols and storage recommendations for artworks composed of or containing rubber and elastomer elements. This methodology is based on a sample set of artworks considered representative of a larger body of objects that pose similar challenges. Building on extensive existing research by conservators and scientists on storage conditions that slow the degradation of artworks with these elements, Taggart’s work seeks to adapt the researchers’ findings to the unique circumstances of composite objects—those in which elastomers can interact with various other organic and inorganic materials. Taggart’s research, which involves assessing artworks of various media and learning from colleagues across the field, will result in methodology and protocols that will be invaluable to major contemporary art collections throughout the world.

The Hirshhorn’s vast collection of composite objects—many with complex theoretical aspects—and the Museum’s access to the exceptional conservation resources of the renowned Smithsonian Institution make this an ideal location for Taggart’s research.

The project begins with the selection of a representative sample set of artworks with composite elastomeric components that require further research, treatment, and monitoring. The objects cross multiple media, including paper, paintings, sculpture, time-based media, and installations. Taggart aims to determine the baseline properties of these works through material characterization and condition documentation. These steps provide a foundation for future treatment, as well as a feasible protocol for the Hirshhorn to assess and monitor the sample set in the long-term. Using current scholarship on rubber degradation and storage, Taggart proposes passive and active storage solutions for the Hirshhorn’s artworks, while considering the feasibility and ethical impact of implementing these recommendations with the composite objects in the collection. Once captured within the collections management system, the information gained during this research will enable Museum staff to better understand the degradation trends of these composite objects and assess the success of the implemented storage. The need for consistent management and monitoring has become even more apparent as the Museum continues to acquire works with increasingly complex elements. Taggart’s goal is to establish a long-term solution that will ensure data integrity and practical use, while also building a framework for future decision-making, condition re-assessment, and analysis.

avatar for Claire Taggart

Claire Taggart

Post-Graduate Fellow, Contemporary Art Conservation, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Claire Taggart is the Samuel H. Kress fellow in contemporary art conservation at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. She holds a Master of Science in Art Conservation from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC), with a... Read More →

avatar for Briana Feston-Brunet

Briana Feston-Brunet

Conservator of Sculpture and Variable Media, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Briana Feston-Brunet is the Variable Media Conservator at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution. She focuses primarily on the conservation of contemporary and time-based media artworks, including audio, video, film, performances, computer and software... Read More →

Thursday May 16, 2019 3:30pm - 4:00pm EDT
Uncas Ballroom Foyer Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun