Saturday, November 28, 2009

Some interesting links

I've just been browsing around the web and though I knew abstractly that Stanton Street was one of the few LES shuls left, I didn't exactly realize how MANY similar buildings with similar histories have been demolished or turned into shiny new condos. Sam Gruber's Jewish Art and Monuments blog has some photos and information about these places here, and also see Elissa Sampson's incredible trove of photos from various spaces that no longer exist...

It's amazing to me that so many existed and now have just disappeared. I'm already so very impressed by the Stanton Street congregation's incredible commitment to preserving and maintaining the building and the active community that gathers there - this just underscores the importance of soldiering on in this direction.

Keep checking in for more great updates on the conservation of the sanctuary interior.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Discovery of another treasure

After a very successful two weeks of stabilization of Tevet, we moved on to Adar, our great fish. Adar has extensive water damage on the visual right side of the image. Similar to Tevet, the central image was covered with contact film to impede loss of the unstable paint. The contact film was successfully removed and any paint left on the film will be consolidated and reattached to the wall at a later date. 

During paint stabilization, an important discovery was made. Hebrew letters from an earlier decoration scheme were found. These words are located above the mazel and can be seen  quite clearly in raking light. This placement of the mazel title is quite different from what we see today, wherein the words are placed below the central image. With a bit of research (thanks Elissa) it was found that one of the words says 'Dagim' meaning fish in the plural . SO COOL!  

Discoveries like these contribute to the understanding of the history and use of historic sites, making their preservation even that much more important. And for us as conservators, it is yet another inspiration to continue our work to save the world's cultural heritage. 

Who knows what undiscovered treasures are yet to be found!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Well, all I can say is that I am thrilled we have such a fantastic team to kick off the Stage 2 of this project. Roos Keppler is back from Amsterdam, and she is doing a fantastic job moving the project forward-- she is thoughtful and careful, and really puts her heart into her work. This time around we are lucky to have Batyah Shtrum on board as well, a dear friend and wonderful conservator. Like Beth and myself, Batyah is an objects conservator, but she has lots of experience working on painted surfaces. We also have some wonderful graduate students-- Katie Gordon and Linsly Boyer--and even a pre-program person working with us. I hope they will post their thoughts about this project as we make progress.

We met with two interested members of the congregation yesterday, including Molly Yestadt. Molly worked with us to raise awareness and interest in the project, and we are so happy she is still involved and helping us liaise with the shul. It was such a wonderful opportunity to talk about this stage of the project. One important issue we discussed is Elul, the mazel we treated intially. This treatment was completed as a Stage 1, which involved lots of testing and researching (still going on now!). We developed our treatment method during stage one-- and now, several months later, we are able to review its success. We are quite pleased with the results actually-- there is some minor lifting of paint flakes that were consolidated originally, but this is only very minor and we will be able to go back in and set them down. It really is fortuitous that we have this time to review work done earlier, during a very different season-- with a lot more humidity!

I will be working one day a week, as with the initial treatment-- wish I had more time to work on this. But I am thrilled with the team and very proud of how hard everyone is working.
Till next time, good night!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Following a very successful completed treatment on the Elul mazel, we have started phase two of the conservation treatment of the mazelos. The next steps are as follows:

               A “triage”, ie., stabilization treatment of the three mazel paintings at greatest risk of significant paint loss: Tevet, Shevat and Adar

               Surface cleaning and consolidation of the three most intact mazels: Nissan, Iyar, and Sivan

               If time allows and outstanding building issues are addressed, stabilization of the remaining five mazels will take place

In addition to the conservation treatment, this phase will include a more detailed assessment of the condition of the west wall, where the sanctuary abuts the adjacent building, in order to ensure no leakage issues remain. As well, paint analysis will be carried out to better determine the history of the paint layers.  

The past week was all about establishing the situation and status of the mazel Tevet. It suffered severe damage the last decennia caused by water infiltration in the wall and also later applied fills left their marks. The paint layer has been pushed off the wall so to speak because of the moisture that needed to go somewhere. Also the later applied gypsum fillings have reacted with the water causing to form salts. Salts occur when a wall gets moist the water gets transported via capillarity and seeks it's way out, when the water evaporates at the surface cristallisation of salts occur. And these again push off the paint layer. An other feature that hasn't helped Tevet at all is the plastic contact film--applied in the past to 'save' the paint layer-- One doesn't need much of an imagination to understand what happens over time with a paint layer under a plastic contact film...

Removal of this plastic film was the most important action to be done--intense and very much like surgery as Batyah and I decided to call this procedure. Furthermore the right consolidation treatment needed to be found. The Tevet appeared to be different than the Elul and therefore an adjustment of the previous consolidation treatment was needed. Off course we have found it and we have made lots of progress the last few days. It has been a rewarding week and very satisfying to liberate Tevet from the plastic film!