Conservation of the Museum's Basket Collection
(from the complete report provided by Fraser Spafford Ricci Art and Archival Conservation)
After an initial conservation assessment in the fall of 2004, conservators at Fraser Spafford Ricci Art and Archival Conservation, Inc., (FSR) prepared a proposal for the conservation and stabilization of the baskets in the Pearson Collection. When a grant from the Museum Assistance Program was confirmed in 2005 to research the collection and support the conservation costs of the work, the baskets were picked up by FSR in the fall of 2005 and brought to their conservation lab. As work progressed, the baskets were returned in three different groups, the last one returned in late March 2006.
At the FSR lab, the baskets were examined prior to conservation to ensure that proposed treatment was suitable. The baskets were photographed before and after conservation. A post-conservation condition report was completed as well as a conservation report for the Museum's records.
Conservation treatment began with dry-surface cleaning as most baskets were covered with a layer of loose dust or dirt. This surface cleaning is done with hog-hair brushes and vacuum suction to remove the particulate matter. Other baskets required the removal of grime and accretions with approved conservation methods, and at times with water on swabs. For those baskets with fragile imbrication, the material was strengthened by consolidation with specific resins. Some baskets required adhesion of loose coils or elements. In one case, the torn hide handle was secured to the basket with a thread.
All baskets were placed into storage mounts within custom-made trays or boxes. To easily identify the artefacts in storage, these mounts were provided with a label containing an image of the basket and its accession number. Trays were custom-made with Coroplast wtih corners held with plastic rivets. Polyethylene foam pads were carved into the appropriate shape to support the baskets. Where this was close to delicate imbrication, the pads were covered with Tyvek against the basket side to provide a smooth surface. Each basket in a tray was further laid onto a thin layer of microfoam padding. Trays were covered with .05 Mylar Type S secured with cotton twill tape. Small baskets were grouped in Coroplast boxes to improve storage efficiency, allowing for stacking in storage. If needed for long-term internal support, soft baskets or deformed baskets were provided with interior pads or supports of carved ethafoam covered with cotton double-knit fabric.
Some examples of treatment
There were 32 baskets that received conservation treatment in this project. For most of them, treatment consisted of surface cleaning, and the removal of accretions, as described above. Two examples are provided here to indicate the scope of the conservator's work.
The first example is 993.21.24 (inv. 04333), an open-weave bowl basket with a small "star" decoration.
The second example is 993.21.27 (inv. 04336), a small basket with a lid.