It feels really, really good to be on this side of first year comprehensive exams. (Note our bleary smiles of relief in the adjacent image.)
For a moment, though, I’m going to take us back in time to the weeks preceding comps, to the weeks that were full of springtime, paintings block, and the final segment of preventive block.
Joyce Hill Stoner taught paintings block for the first time in 27 years, and she wasn’t about to let us get bored! Our examination projects were quite diverse, including a mural and a reverse painting on glass. We staged somewhat theatrical debates on topics such as ArtWatch, working with living artists, and visible vs. deceptive loss compensation (incarnations of Caroline Keck and James Beck even made appearances!). Additionally, we each had a“dance card” to fill with different activities, and by the end of block we had all experimented with cleaning, filling, inpainting, varnishing, egg tempera and oil painting techniques, historic pigment preparation, sampling, cross-section fluorescence microscopy, and pigment ID. As usual, our chemistry classes with Richard Wolbers were both conceptually and practically enlightening throughout these processes.
By now the 10 agents of deterioration have become as familiar to us as each other (in a nice way). So, during round three of preventive block we focused on overall collection and building surveys, especially for historic house museums. We got a thorough introduction to building envelopes from Michael C. Henry from UPenn, and Meg Craft helped us perform a CAP survey of the Amstel House, a charming museum run by the
New Castle Historical Society. This was a great opportunity both to learn from Meg and to pool our collective knowledge to help the museum work towards immediate and long-term improvements. Individually, we also compiled surveys of 10 storage rooms at Winterthur, which included a semester’s worth of monitoring and environmental data.
Somewhere in there, spring happened. And it was beautiful.