Round Two

Dealing with a disaster

Semester two of year one as a WUDPAC started out with a flurry of action.

Before our holiday sugar-highs had even worn off, we found ourselves faced with Snowmageddon 2012! Thankfully it was only a staged scenario as part of Preventive Block, but we still had to deal with it, a task that entailed visiting “damaged” storage areas to document the emergency situation and make plans for immediate and long-term recovery. Our two response teams learned a lot from Dr. Caitlin O’Grady, who shared her valuable first-hand experiences in Haiti with us, and from Bob Norris (aka Debbie’s husband), who led us through a highly entertaining afternoon focused on team dynamics.


A different form of entertainment – horror, for some – faced us soon after when we were guided through an in-depth presentation on IPM (integrated pest management). ­­­­Dr. Thomas A. Parker filled our nightmares with detailed knowledge about all sorts of creepy crawlers, including how to get rid of them and keep them from coming back, and how to distinguish between cockroach and mouse poo. Only Dr. Parker could make us want to go out for drinks with him after showing us physical examples of everything just mentioned. The final stage of Preventive Block involved returning to the storage spaces we had briefly assessed at the beginning of first semester. For the next few months we will build a comprehensive preventive analysis for our respective rooms by monitoring them regularly and taking into consideration all of the ten agents of deterioration.

Somehow, all of that and more took place the mere span of four days. The rest of our time back at school has been occupied with Photographic Materials Block, which was great for many reasons, not the least of which was our instructor: Debbie Hess Norris herself. Along for the ride was Kelly Leahey, a native of Australia and current Mellon Fellow in the paper lab at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, who served as a combination of TA and classmate #11. Our knowledge of photographic processes and preservation grew immensely in a short time, as we learned how to ID everything from the earliest salt paper prints to 20th century silver gelatin developed-out prints. On top of all that Debbie shared insight into fundraising and world outreach, and she regularly inspired us about the historical and personal value of photographs and their conservation. She even managed to sneak in a few lessons titled something like, “The Beatles Are Amazing.”

WUDPAC's (and tagalongs) outside the Met

Our field trip was the first class excursion to New York (hooray!), where we toured some of the labs and galleries at the Met. Photograph conservator Nora Kennedy pulled some gorgeous collection prints for us to view in the Photo lab, and third-year WUDPAC Erin Anderson showed us around the Objects Conservation spaces before turning us loose on the rest of the city. The block concluded with a visit from Paul Messier, during which he shared a fascinating diversity of experiences from his career. We spent the next day delivering group presentations on Daguerreotypes, film-base negatives, and digital imaging, and just like that – it was done.

Before signing off, I have to share one photo “resource” that Kelly enlightened the class with… click here and enjoy! (We miss you already, Kelly!)

~ Jessica


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