Sunday, June 28, 2015

Week Four at Independence: What's Wrong with the Liberty Bell?

            I’ve been at Independence for almost month, and it’s incredible to see how much has been accomplished since I started just a few weeks ago. I’ve assessed, cleaned, and inventoried an entire storage room of several hundred artifacts. The conservation project in the Second Bank has been a slow one thus far, but it’s important to ensure that all artifacts are treated to protect their future at INDE for future storage and potential use. I’m glad to be part of such a vital project!

            I spent the past week working on the new storage area, which has come with its set of challenges. As I discussed last week, the types of objects in this room are much bulkier than the media I worked with in the previous room. It’s not possible for me to always move everything because of the sheer size of the objects, so I’ve been advised to clean large sofas, chairs, and bedframes as best I can. There is one chair in particular where the stuffing has stretched out from underneath and is virtually in tatters. Moving it is at the risk of further shedding and the potential that the stuffing may finally collapse from under the chair. Important decisions like these need to be made throughout the conservation process so as not to cause further damage on already badly deteriorating items.

            Monitoring the condition of objects at INDE is an important part of the daily and long-term functions of CRM. One of the museum technicians noticed recently an unusual waxy substance underneath the Liberty Bell, located in the Liberty Bell Center across the street from Independence Hall. This may have been due to lacquering, which is a process by which wax is melted and thinly coated on objects to protect them from damage and make them durable. The CRM staff thought the waxy substance could have been residue from previous lacquering.

            As a precautionary measure, Karie brought in renowned metals conservator P. Andrew Lins from the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA). Early Thursday morning, we arrived one hour before the Liberty Bell Center opened to the public so that the PMA and INDE staff could work to assess the Bell. Lins brought his team from the PMA, where a PMA associate scraped minute samples from within the Bell. She stood underneath the bell while she worked, which was a reminder of how big the Bell actually is. The samples were placed in small capsules, where they’ll be taken back to the lab and examined underneath a microscope to determine the type of material.

Here are some pictures from the day: 

Metals conservator P. Andrew Lins using a light to observe the inside of the Liberty Bell.. 

PMA Associates work to scrape samples of the waxy substances from underneath the Bell. 

It was an exciting day working on a special access work project on the Liberty Bell!

Until next week!

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