art, art conservation, what we do

Volunteerism and AIC Angels

My mother was the queen of volunteers when I was growing up, and only lately have I started to realize some of the odd connections between what she spent her time on, and what I do now. For example, she and her women’s group helped re-establish the prison library at Attica after the riot there in 1971. I’m not sure of the details, but it was a library thing, for sure. Another example: this week marks the 20th anniversary of an award established in her honor at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center at Buffalo State College. My mother volunteered many hours in Rockwell Hall, working with the Center’s first Director, and my friend, the late Edna Lindeman. The Millicent Heller Volunteer Appreciation award is given each year to honor volunteer service. My mother’s volunteerism at the Albright Knox provided me, as a grade schooler, the opportunity to roam the galleries in off hours. I spent a lot of time crawling around in the mirrored room. She gave me an attachment to art, in many ways. I’m thrilled when I get to work on art made by artists I loved as a child. When a Burchfield watercolor came through the lab last year, I was pretty happy.

My mom also gave me an appreciation for how much work gets done by unpaid but dedicated people. This year’s American Institute for Conservation (AIC) Angel’s project is a case in point. I’m the coordinator for this year’s project, which will be hosted by the American Alpine Club and the Colorado Mountain Club. These organizations collaborated to maintain a world-class library and an newly opened museum which focus on the study of mountain environments and activities. These folks get so much done not only because of their energetic staff, but because of their enthusiastic volunteers. They are very excited at the prospect of a cluster of conservators descending upon them to do that thing that we do. Plans are in their early stages, but I know there are a century’s worth of summitting records, some written on candy wrappers, some on more official ledgers; there are canvas tents and leather-handled tools; there are lantern slides and color slides; there are giant models of Everest. There’s a mural. Rare books. Scrapbooks. Some of these things will get our attention and some will not (yet)- not sure which projects can be addressed in a day, even if we are superheroes. If you are a conservator, attending the AIC annual conference in Denver, give me a shout to sign up! There will be an announcement on the DistList soon.

We will also be seeking donations of supplies, so if you think you can help in that arena, gratitude will be yours in abundance!

Stay tuned for more details, and don’t forget to thank your volunteers!


Where are your shoulderblades?

Some of you may know that I am a yoga fanatic. I try to recruit yogis and yoginis everywhere I go. My co-workers are probably a little sick of my battlecry…”Are you breathing?”

But it helps me so much, when I am hunched over the bench, holding my breath while I scrape something off of something else, to remember to not only take a deep breath, but to continue to breathe, slowly and steadily. And when I try to do that, I realize that, not only am I not breathing, but my shoulders are up around my ears while I hold my head at a really strange angle because I’m trying to use both my bifocals and head visor, causing my neck to scream, my lower back to ache, and numbness to gradually shut down my hands. Generally not good for delicate work.

So, I take a deep breath, and push my shoulders back down.  In fact, I apply some of what I’ve learned in yoga class. Instead of just removing my shoulders from my inner ears, I try to push the wings of my shoulders down my back so that they think they can meet in the middle, and then I spread them out as if they could spread out to the sides, past my arms but without moving my arms forward. Okay, that sounds a little weird, but the motion spreads the shoulder blades out so that all the stress on neck and arms and lower back is dispersed, especially if I remember to tilt my pelvis so my lower back is relatively flat as well.

It’s impossible to hunch, that way, and breath can expand your lungs without force. It takes a bit of practice.

Yoga Journal is a great source for figuring out how to do Downward Dog, and here is an article on yoga anatomy.

If we’re gonna keep doing this work, we have to take care of our tools.  Body is one of ’em.  Happy New Year Resolutions!