Hi, I'm Pamela Skjolsvik, currrently a library science master's student at the University of North Texas. In January, I began my practicum at the museum's research library. As an author and an avid reader, I love books, not only for the information they provide, but as objects. I especially love preserving books so that others can continue to use them in the future, so I was thrilled to have an opportunity to work on a book preservation project in the research library.
So, what am I doing at the Amon Carter? I am helping to preserve the library's collection of bound Harper’s Weekly magazines published in the nineteenth century. As you can see, some of the books in this collection are in need of major repair work. Several have detached boards, while others simply need a custom mylar cover and a good dusting of the text block. Library patrons access these books quite often - mainly to view their spectacular wood engravings. The first step in the preservation process was to assess what the volumes needed. While I don't have time to fix all of the books, my goal is to make protective boxes for 8-10 books and to do minor repairs on those that need less work.
In addition to my focus on the Harper’s Weekly collection, I also repaired two of the library's rare volumes comprising Catlin’s Notes of Eight Years’ Travels and Residence in Europe With His North American Indian Collection. Both volumes had detached spine pieces and damaged corners.
I reinforced the spine with wheat paste and Japanese paper and created a new hollow back spine piece that I tucked beneath the old cloth. In addition, I created a new spine label. You will notice that I condensed the title of the book.
I fixed the corners with a mix of PVA, methyl cellulose and pressure. I also dabbed a bit of paint on the exposed board of the cover for purely aesthetic reasons. Ta da! These books are now stable and can be perused by the patrons of the library.
Here I am in my workspace at the museum:
It was a sloshy wintry day in Tieton today, one degree above freezing, which made the walk to and from the book arts studio messier but less treacherous. Tieton is situated fifteen miles west of Yakima near the confluence of the Tieton and Naches Rivers, and it was a typical agricultural town into the 1970s, when it slid into economic depression with the decline of its fruit warehouses.
A sloshy wintry day in Tieton
A Seattle resident, Ed Marquand founded Paper Hammer Studios in Tieton in 2007, and since that time he has launched seven other artisanal businesses that huddle close to the town square. His goal is to revitalize the regional economy by "combining creative and professional skills, connecting with local resources to build successful businesses involving art, design, hospitality, and recreation." These business all fall under the umbrella company Mighty Tieton, which includes Paper Hammer Studios.
Paper Hammer is where the 250 copies of the Collector's Edition of the Amon Carter's landmark publication on the watercolors of Charles M. Russell are getting their covers and slipcases.
A stack of handmade slipcases weighted down to dry in the book-arts studio; the weights are bricks thickly wrapped in heavy packing paper.
One of the first hand-assembled covers for the Collector's Edition is pressed under bricks while drying.
Two leather covers, out from under their bricks.
Book artist Melanie Brauner glues the first cover to a book block. The glue is polyvinyl adhesive, or PVA, an archival glue that is relatively new in the art of bookmaking. For centuries, bookmakers used glues made from animal hide and wheat paste, both of which have Achilles heels: Hide glue crystallizes as it ages, becoming increasingly stiff; it is acidic as well, so it eventually burns into a book's pages. Wheat paste remains flexible and is great with paper--but many a book held together with this adhesive has been destroyed by hungry bugs with a taste for paste.
A fresh union of book block and cover!
Brauner places the freshly glued book into a "standing press," where it will stay for six hours to dry. PVA dries quickly, but not so much between leather covers, which retain a significant amount of moisture. This copy is a prototype--before full-line assembly of the books begins, the leather covers will be transported to another location, where the title, authors' names, and museum logo will be stamped in gold foil on their spines.
Both editions of Charles M. Russell: Watercolors, 1887-1926 are going to be truly special. But this Collector's Edition is in a class of its own. The retail price is guaranteed through December 31, 2015, so the wise book lover will preorder a copy now! Come 2016, the book's price will be driven by market demand. If you have any questions, email email@example.com; to order either edition of the book, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 817.989.5007.
I arrived under steel-gray skies in Seattle this past Sunday afternoon and hustled from the airport straight to the Seattle Art Museum, which I'd never visited before and which would close a scant two hours after my arrival. It was that afternoon or nothing since I was scheduled to leave the next morning for Tieton, a small town on a small square on the other side of the very unsmall Cascades. SAM's Bierstadt is to die for. It was a brief but rewarding visit, and as the doors locked behind me and I stepped out to the corner of 5th and Union with my suitcase, the rain began to fall. It rains 158 days a year in the Emerald City. I knew this, and still I left my Gore-Tex at home.
Albert Bierstadt, Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, 1870, Seattle Art Museum
My destination the next morning was the offices of Lucia/Marquand, the venerable book production company engaged with designing and managing production of the Amon Carter's landmark book on the watercolors of Charles M. Russell. It was great to put faces with the names and voices of the staff there I'd been working with for months on end. After lunch, Jeff Wincapaw (the books' designer), Melanie Brauner (a book artist), and I piled into Jeff's truck to traverse the Snoqualmie Pass east to Tieton--a trek that at the summit was a bit of a nail biter!
Interior of the Lucia/Marquand offices in Seattle
Snoqualmie Pass is the largest of the three east-west mountain routes across Washington State that are kept open year-round
The Russell book will be available in two editions: a Limited Edition (500 copies) and a Collector's Edition (250 copies). Both editions printed last month, and we received an advance copy of the Limited Edition in Seattle this week--fully bound and finished and gorgeous! (The full shipment will arrive in the Amon Carter's warehouse next month.) Advance copies of the Collector's Edition arrived, too--only they arrived unbound and unfinished, and they arrived in Tieton. All as planned.
An advanced copy of the Limited Edition with its designer, Jeff Wincapaw
Besides being located in the heart of Washington's apple country, Tieton (pop. 1,232) is home to the book-arts building, Paper Hammer Studios, established by Ed Marquand in 2007. This is where the Collector's Edition will come into its own gorgeously finished state. Over the course of the next three weeks, it's here that each of these 250 copies will be hand-bound in Zaragoza goat skin, blind-stamped with Russell's signature on the front, the title stamped in gold on the spine, and each copy fitted with a custom-made linen slipcase.
Paper Hammer Studios, Tieton, Washington
Along with these fully printed but coverless copies, known as book blocks, all the materials that will go into their finishing arrived in Tieton as well: the board stock for the hard back, the endsheets, the tanned leathers that will complete the two-toned cover, and the linen cloth for the slipcases--all in their raw uncut conditions.
The unbound book blocks arrived in Tieton late last week
Melanie Brauner, book artist, inspects the darker of the two leathers that will cover the Collector's Edition
These boards will be cut down to 12 x 12 inches, then wrapped in leather to form the hardcover books
A roll of linen cloth that will be tailored down to cover the custom slipcases
Maria Solorio and Melanie Brauner cut down the endsheets on a board sheer
Brauner prepares to cut out a piece of leather for a board
I'll be posting pics (with fewer words!) of the Collector's Edition as it comes together. And I'll likely post some extraneous things, too, because, well, I'm in a book-arts studio after all, and there's a lot of cool stuff around.
If you have any questions about either Russell edition, feel free to email me at email@example.com. To order your copy of either edition, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 817.989.5007.
The price for the Collector's Edition is guaranteed only through December 31, so order today!
Hello, my name is Stacey Kelly, and I’m the new Paper Conservation Fellow at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. Today, I’m going to give you a little behind-the-scenes tour of the conservation lab at the Amon Carter.
The lab houses three of us: Paper Conservator Jodie Utter, Photographs Conservator Fernanda Valverde, and me. We try to get as much natural light as we can in the lab because it is essential for examination and treatment. The windows all face north, which provides the most consistent light throughout the day, great for looking at color in an artwork. We are immensely pleased to have such splendid windows in our workspace, and our colleagues have of course expressed their jealousy and intent to move their desks into our lab.
A view of the lab showing the worktables, the sink, and the windows!
The main bulk of the lab consists of large worktables for documentation, examination, and treatment. We have a fume hood for treatment involving solvents, a large sink for wet treatment, drawers for the temporary storage of artworks and photographic prints, a paper cutter for cutting board, and different types of materials for packing and storage.
Temporary storage for works of art in the lab, and our little library for conservation-related information
We also have a wide range of scientific equipment that we use for the examination and documentation of artworks; this is usually done when we are working on a technical study for research, or if we need to look at a particular artwork in greater detail for exhibition or treatment. These tools include UV light to help identify materials, a spectrophotometer that measures material (or image) density (usually employed to examine the levels of fading that have occurred in colored prints and photographs), a stereo microscope to examine and treat artworks under magnification, a handheld X-ray fluorescent analyzer to assist in the identification of inorganic materials, and a polarizing light microscope for pigment and fiber analysis.
Our handheld X-ray fluorescent analyzer that we use to identify nineteenth-century watercolor pigment samples, as well as other inorganic materials
Paper Conservator Jodie Utter working under the stereo microscope to consolidate flaking paint on Romare Bearden’s Poseidon, the Sea God–Enemy of Odysseus, 1977
We are actively collecting and building a historical artist pigment reference library as a resource for pigment analysis and identification. Here you can see the wonderful (and steadily growing) assembly of nineteenth-century artist materials we have here in the lab. All these pigments will be sampled, analyzed, and added to our pigment reference library to aid in the current and future research of artworks in our collection.
Images of collected artist materials for analysis and inclusion to the reference library set
So this ends the really quick tour of the lab! Hope you enjoyed it. If you have any questions, please email me at email@example.com.
Because of the sheer size of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art’s collection and the nature of objects that can deteriorate with exposure to light, such as artworks on paper, only a small portion of the entire collection can be seen at any given time. In addition to artworks, the museum collections include photographic negatives, historical ephemera, library books, and archive materials—hundreds of thousands of individual items, all of which are cataloged and stored for long-term preservation.
As the senior photographer for the museum, I get to see many items that rarely see the light of day. To bring these “dark collections” to light, I’ve been charged with selecting such artworks from our vaults and presenting them on the museum’s Tumblr page—making them available for all to enjoy. Be sure to tune in to our Tumblr page, where there will be a new work presented each week. Here’s a bit of a primer—a couple of items from deep in the vaults that have a connection to each other.
Ralph R. Doubleday (1881-1958), Yakami [sic] Canutt Bulldogger Deluxe, early twentieth century, photographic postcard
The photographic postcard above by rodeo photographer Ralph R. Doubleday shows Yakima Canutt (1895–1986) posing in the rodeo ring. Canutt was known for bulldogging and bronc riding and won the saddle-bronc competition at the Fort Worth rodeo three years in a row from 1921 to 1923, probably around the time this undated photo was taken. He went on to a career as an actor, stuntman, and action film director.
Canutt was hired to ride and act in Hollywood westerns in 1923 and appeared in several silent films. But when the movies transitioned to sound around 1928, Canutt chose to specialize in action and stunt work. He met actor John Wayne while performing as his stunt double in 1932. The two became friends and worked on techniques for stunts and on-screen fighting. Canutt was the inspiration for Wayne's trademark mannerisms, his drawling enunciation, and hip-rolling walk. John Wayne said, "I spent weeks studying the way Yakima Canutt walked and talked. He was a real cowhand."
Both men worked on John Ford's 1939 film Stagecoach, which features Canutt's daring stunt work running across the horses' rigging to jump astride the lead horse and take control of the runaway team.
Screen shot of Yakima doubling John Wayne doing wagon team stunt from John Ford's Stagecoach, 1939
The museum collection includes this screen-printed poster for Stagecoach.
Unknown, Stagecoach, after 1939, screen print
Although Wayne had been acting in Hollywood for ten years, his performance in Stagecoach proved to be his breakthrough role, leading to a legendary career. Stagecoach is considered one of the most influential films ever made. Orson Welles argued that it was a perfect textbook of film-making and claimed to have watched it more than forty times in preparation for the making of Citizen Kane. . . . See you next week on Tumblr!
In my group of closest friends, I count many overachievers in the crafting and project-realization vein. For a still-life themed Halloween party a few years back, one among this crew sewed her own large clam shell out of shimmering fabric and lined it with an opalescent interior so that she could be an oyster on a half shell. I decided to take an easier route by emulating the trompe l’oeil masters of American painting, Harnett and Peto, with my own half-hearted attempt at their signature style of assembling paper goods on a painted wooden backdrop.
Compare the Amon Carter’s John F. Peto, A Closet Door, 1904-06, with my homage. Of course, my friend the oyster received all the congratulatory remarks.
In keeping with their reputations for preparedness, I suspect that most of the people I know have already assembled their Pinterest boards with costume ideas or have planned to make spooky breadsticks with painted almond fingernails as detached finger treats. For those of you more, shall we say, normal folks…we offer this inspirational guide to last minute Halloween costume ideas inspired by the Amon Carter’s collection. They are vetted by the least crafty among our staff.
Karl Struss, [Barbara Struss in costume], 1925
Putting a bag on your head or cutting eye holes in a sheet are the go-to costumes for uninspired people. In this case, you may put a bag on your head and tell people you are evoking the work of master photographer and cinematographer Karl Struss. Voila!
Supplies: paper bag, markers, scissors
Grant Wood, Parson Weems’ Fable, 1939,
There are plenty of costume aficionados out there who will create their own versions of Grant Wood’s iconic painting American Gothic. Dare to be different with your own take on one of Wood’s other iconic works, Parson Weems’ Fable. George Washington’s head here is modeled after Gilbert Stuart’s rendition of the first president. It was once remarked that if George Washington were to come back to life, he better look like Stuart’s painted portrait or else he would go unrecognized!
Supplies: White shirt, blue pants, axe, white hair powder and black ribbon*
*May substitute with handmade George Washington mask using $1 bill and copier
Frederic Remington, The Sergeant, 1904
I personally find those people who paint themselves with metallic paint, stand still in public places, and then scare innocent pedestrians half to death by engaging in sudden movement highly terrifying, so feel free to skip the bronze face paint!
Supplies: floppy hat, neckerchief , fake mustache…if needed
William M. Harnett, Attention Company!, 1878
Though I wouldn’t be able to make an origami crane, I can certainly fold a paper hat. So can you! If you have forgotten how, there are many instructional Youtube videos.
Supplies: newspaper, broom handle, khaki coat, and some origami skills
William J. McCloskey, Wrapped Oranges, 1889
I have been known to call this painted rendition of the tissue paper used to protect oranges as they were shipped across the country “exuberant” for the way the flamboyant crinkled coverings make the oranges festive and celebratory. People will probably assume you are a cross between a pumpkin and a mummy, but you can clarify.
Supplies: orange clothing and tissue paper
If all else fails…might I suggest Thomas Eakins’ Swimming,1885? **
**The costume ideas in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and attitudes of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. The Amon Carter Museum of American Art is not responsible for the legal ramifications of copying dollar bills, nor does it endorse public nudity. This disclaimer is meant with good humor and is in no way legally proper. Happy Halloween!!!
Maggie Adler, Assistant Curator
It’s been about three months since my last post. This isn’t because I’ve been waiting around for something to write about, though now that I think about it, that’s kind of what it’s been. I’ve been busy for sure; but more to the point, I’ve been holding off for the approaching landmark stage of sending our big Russell book to press. Yup, more than 400 of Charlie’s watercolors are soon to be replicated with ink onto paper, then bound between two covers into a real book with real pages to turn, stories to read, and beautiful reproductions to study and savor.
As I write this, we’re reviewing what are called “plotters,” or the final page proofs of our book, output by the printer in Shenzhen, China. Put another way: we are in the final stage of review before we green light the printing, and the presses start rolling.
You’ve been here before. Think back to preparing your resume for a big job search. You read and reread the document over and over again, and you employ the eyes of trusted friends and associates to read it as well. You scour it for any mistakes, oversights, or inconsistencies. And finally, having taken due diligence to new extremes, you release it into the world. No going back then. It’s out there.
We’re on the cusp of “no going back” with our Russell book, and we’re super excited about it getting “out there” and into your hands. The plotters look great, which means that if all goes as it should, the finished product is going to look spectacular.
If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know there are two editions of this book forthcoming, both of them short-run publications. The Limited Edition run is only 500 copies; the Collector’s Edition run is only 250 copies, and each of these rare copies will be signed by the authors and numbered, then bound in leather and sheathed in a slipcase.
For more information, or if you have questions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can follow the project on #CMRussellBook. In the meantime, I’m going to get back to the plotters!
What do a lawyer, architect, curator, social worker, librarian, student, gallerist, and a retired English teacher have in common? Each attended the museum’s first Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon, held on Saturday, October 10, in the museum's research library. The Amon Carter joins other museums around the country in realizing the important role the community can play in improving the encyclopedia’s content by helping share the art knowledge available in museums.
With access to one of the most important American art research collections in the country, twelve participants spent the day working under the guidance of a seasoned Wikipedian to either create or improve a diverse list of American art articles. With no promise of a byline and knowing the likelihood that their work would be shaped by future Wikipedia writers, our participants came together in a very altruistic way to share the museum's intellectual assets via this collaborative and cumulative knowledge-sharing platform. A clever Wikipedia reporting tool, Herding Sheep, collects the impressive amount of work that was accomplished that day.
Thanks to all our participants who helped us mobilize our knowledge and stay tuned for details about our next Edit-a-Thon!
When a song that we’ve heard on the radio gets stuck in our heads and we sing it all day long, we call it an ear worm. Sometimes art historians develop fixations on particular works of art that dwell in our psyches—posing riddles and conundrums. Should we call the phenomenon something more glamorous than a brain or eye worm?
I had the honor of fielding questions on Twitter for #AskaCurator day—an occasion in which curators all over the world respond to queries from the Twitterverse. An exchange with Waco’s Dr. Pepper Museum led to their interest in knowing whether we had any works in our collection featuring Dr. Pepper.
Alas, though Coke advertising figures prominently in city scenes by many of our well-known photographers, Dr. Pepper is not represented in our collection.
I did, however, stumble across this gem, which is the current subject of my fixation:
Artist unknown, Cold Soda Water from the Matthews Apparatus, 1800s, 1969.186
This nineteenth-century lithograph in our collection is emblematic of one of the reasons I love being an art historian. The whole thing seems pretty innocuous on first inspection, right? The ad is meant to communicate that the “Matthews Apparatus” can provide the coldest carbonated water in a highly pressurized tank. What happens when we try to put ourselves in the mindset of its original intended audience?
A little digging reveals that John Matthews (1808–1870) was the man heralded for the popularity of carbonated drinks in America. Known as the “Soda Fountain King,” Matthews patented his “apparatus for charging water with carbon dioxide gas” in 1832. Though others had preceded him, their devices were known to explode. Matthews incorporated a pressure valve that ensured his tanks were the safest. He was responsible for countertop dispensers used in pharmacy counters to provide beverages to the general consumer, water carts, room-sized tanks, bottling tables, the soda fountains themselves, and even the first flavorings. The tank was patented in 1872, and it says so in the print, so we can get a better idea of the date of this object. Barely visible in the jet of water coming from the larger canister is the Matthews company insignia of a cherub using a monkey wrench to defend the soda from a marauding bear. Fascinating!
Here’s what sticks in the art historian’s mind, though. I had the great privilege to study shipwreck imagery as a curatorial sidekick for the exhibition "Shipwreck! Winslow Homer and The Life Line" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. A little knowledge turns this innocent ad into something quite scandalous.
A nineteenth-century person lived in fear of shipwreck. The seas were unpredictable, and for much of the century, lifesaving brigades were scarce. The biggest killer was hypothermia from being subjected to the frigid Atlantic. Imagery proliferated with frozen maidens in chemises who had perished from exposure. Shipwreck stories in popular periodicals were the major news stories of disaster of their time.
The one saving grace in the event of a wreck could be a rope shot from a canon-like device called a “Lyle gun” from shore to the sinking ship. The rope was used to bear a rescue mechanism that could ferry passengers one at a time to safety, if all went according to plan.
So, with that background information, can we see where the advertiser has gone wrong? Certainly, to herald the freezing nature of the water was in poor taste. Not to mention that in place of a lifeline shot from a shore crew we have a highly ineffectual pressurized stream of water! I suppose the print boldly conveys the distinctiveness of the Matthews apparatus—but yikes!
This is not the end of my pondering, however. The print in question entered our collection in 1969. I wondered what would have prompted its acquisition. Figuring it was part of a batch of prints purchased as a single lot, I wanted to try to ascertain what treasure our past curators were seeking when this print came aboard as a likely stowaway.
I think I have the answer.
This is our marvelous painting by Carl Wimar, showing the dramatic abduction of Daniel Boone’s daughter.
Carl Wimar (1828–1862), The Abduction of Boone's Daughter by the Indians, 1855–56, oil on canvas, 1965.1
In the same batch of purchases that included the Matthews apparatus picture, we find this advertising gem.
The Father of Waters, after 1855, chromolithograph, 1969.191
It’s a chromolithograph produced by Anheuser Busch in which Boone’s daughter is replaced by beer products. My art historical colleague Mark Thistlethwaite teaches a section of a course on inappropriate advertising in which this print plays a starring role. When I mentioned my shock at the impropriety of our Matthews soda ad, he told me about this Wimar riff. How amazing to discover that this was probably the Holy Grail that our curator sought all along, with the Matthews apparatus an unexpected bonus.
The good news is, now that I have shared all of this with you, I am likely finally ready to move on to the next brain worm…but maybe I’ll drink a refreshing beverage first and raise a grateful glass to Matthews!
Maggie Adler, Assistant Curator
The entry wall to an exhibition can often reveal a curator’s bias. If we are not adhering to a chronological or strict thematic arrangement, the first object you see might simply be a secret personal favorite.
Such is the case with the first wall of Tales from the American West: The Rees-Jones Collection, now on view in the museum’s galleries. The show features a hearty selection of romantic, nostalgic, and virtuosic renditions of artistic imaginings of the mythic West—from bronze wranglers to vibrant oil portraits of Taos denizens.
Maybe it’s because my attempts at watercolor painting look something like this
Maggie Adler, Amateurish Watercolor, 2015
that I have become quite partial to Thomas Moran’s dazzling color combinations in Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, 1895, which I have placed front and center at the beginning of the exhibition.
Thomas Moran (1837–1926), Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, 1895, watercolor on paper, Rees-Jones Collection, 2013.15.1
Some passages remain discreet areas of unmixed color, some portions blend and bleed masterfully. Turquoise practically vibrates off the paper, and we have a palpable sense of the sublime vistas that Moran encountered. The scenes he witnessed made it into his sketchbooks as preliminary sketches that he revisited back in his studio, relying on his own sometimes quite poetic color notations as his guide. Nowhere in this work can we find a grungy, muddy soup or over-moistened, rumpled passage of paper—as are always to be found in my own creations.
How is this accomplished? With a great dose of patience. I have recently been educated in the intricacies of making watercolor. Everything plays a role, from the texture of the paper to the brushes used to the manipulation of water to the artist’s instinct to wait for the exact moment in which the paint is just dry enough to apply another layer but not so dry as to prove unmalleable.
While it is true that watercolor can be unforgiving—once the paint is applied it is not easily covered or removed—the virtuoso watercolorist has tricks up a sleeve from sponging to masking to scraping to even using stale bread to absorb excess paint.
As much as Moran intended for us to be in awe of this landscape, I am in awe of the technique that translated his view into the marvelous work on paper we have the privilege to feature in our galleries.
Maggie Adler, Assistant Curator