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Many people are using their time at home during the pandemic to begin sorting, labeling and storing their photographs.
While the current pandemic may be keeping us separated from family and
friends, we can find comfort and connectionsand, perhaps, a way to stay busyin
favorite objects that hold fond memories, from a cozy old quilt to an album of
That idea was what inspired students and faculty in the University of
Delawares Department of Art
Conservation to come up with a weekly blog, Attics and Basements and
Closets, Oh My! Caring for Family Treasures.
During this time
when we have to socially isolate, I find it personally comforting to have
things in my home that remind me of loved ones and happy memories, said Laura
Mina, an affiliated assistant professor of art conservation at UD. She first
proposed the idea of reaching out to the community with a newsletter or blog
that could offer advice for taking care of heirlooms and other personal items.
Of course, I'm
glad for cell phones and Zoom, but there is something wonderfully tactile about
wrapping myself in a childhood blanket, said Mina, who is associate
conservator of textiles and head of the textile lab at Winterthur Museum. I
thought that the quarantine might be an opportunity for people to reconnect
with their family treasures, and I wanted to help them preserve the things that
are most meaningful to them.
The project has
produced four issues of the blog so far, each with a particular focus:
photographs; albums and scrapbooks; works on paper, such as documents and
cards; and books. Future topics are expected to include jewelry, baskets and paintings, as
well as some general advice for dealing with household pests and other issues
that can damage objects.
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Personal works on paper such as greeting cards, notes and ticket stubs need careful handling to stay in good condition.
Each issue is
researched and written by a student in the Winterthur/University of
Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC), a three-year, internationally prestigious
masters degree program that educates and trains conservation professionals.
We hope that these posts are and continue to be an educational resource for
people, as well as a source of solace, said first-year WUDPAC student
Annabelle Camp, who wrote the first issue of the blog, about caring for family
photos, and continues to work on the project. I believe we have all felt
isolated at one point during this crisis, but we can find comfort in not only
being productive but also in the objects themselves.
Camp, who has spent some of her own isolation organizing her wedding photos,
noted that students begin the graduate program with a comprehensive study of
all aspects of conservation, although they ultimately choose an area of specialization.
Because of their broad background, they are able to conduct research and write
about a variety of conservation materials, she said.
And, she noted, the blog is written not for academics or professional
conservators but for the general public. Tips focus on practical matters such
as how to sort, label, handle and store potentially fragile materials.
Whether it's a photo album, family
quilt or a favorite sweater, we all have personal treasures that bring us joy
and connect us to people we may not be able to connect with otherwise right now, Camp
said. The goal of these posts is to provide approachable information that will
help preserve those treasures for as long as possible.
The latest project is just one way in
which the Department of Art Conservation engages with the community. Faculty
and students regularly take on conservation projects that aid nonprofit and
educational organizations and individuals in need.
With Caring for
Family Treasures, we are grateful to have a way to reach out and help others
at this time, said Debra Hess Norris, the Unidel Henry Francis du Pont
Chair in Fine Arts and chairperson of the art conservation department.
Visit this website to see all the "Family Treasures" blog posts.
Article by Ann Manser; photos by Annabelle Camp
Published April 28, 2020