Preserving a Legend:
Industrial Microscopy and
Artifact Conservation at the
Walt Disney Family Museum
“Our department specializes in preserving all of the
objects we receive here that will become part of a
special exhibit or...
Background
The 40,000-square-foot Walt
Disney Family Museum tells
Walt Disney’s story through
interactive galleries, origi...
Background
To ensure that these pieces of history are properly
protected—and in many cases accurately
preserved—the museum...
Preservation
Process
“Our department specializes
in preserving all of the objects
we receive here that will become
part of...
Preservation Process
“In relation to exhibition, we examine each object to see if it is stable enough to
go on public disp...
Preservation Process
Morris continued, “We use our Olympus SZ61 stereo microscope
to determine and characterize the paint ...
Damage
Treatment
Beyond discovering and assessing
object deterioration or damage,
the SZ61 microscope is also used
by Morr...
Damage Treatment
“This is an area of preservation that is greatly enhanced by microscope
usage—in the past, we had to take...
Technique
Analysis
Another benefit to working with an
industrial microscope is that it gives
museum staff members a chance...
Technique Analysis
“While investigating the condition of one of Blair’s paintings, we were taking a
closer look at what ap...
Technique Analysis
Following this discovery, Morris and her team then took a closer look at some
of Blair’s other work, le...
Technique Analysis
The museum also uses the SZ61 to determine if and where an artist changed
their approach to a piece whi...
Examination of
3D Objects
Beyond two-dimensional objects,
the museum also uses its microscope
system for the examination o...
Examination of 3D Objects
“Under normal light and without magnification, cracks in ceramics are not
always visible or may ...
Expanding the
Museum’s Capabilities
An exciting addition to the museum’s conservation
department, the Olympus SZ61 has gre...
Expanding the
Museum’s Capabilities
“One example of this is the stabilization of paint layers, which we can
now perform us...
Expanding the
Museum’s Capabilities
“Morris continued, “With the SZ61, we are now able to get a close look at what
is actu...
Conclusion
“Because an object can look fine to the naked eye but in reality be suffering
major degradation—or vice versa—h...
Conclusion
“We look forward to continuing to utilize the SZ61 not only in the conservation
lab but as a tool that can assi...
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Preserving a Legend - Industrial Microscopy and Artifact Conservation at the Walt Disney Family Museum

Located on the Main Post of San Francisco's Presidio, the Walt Disney Family Museum tells Disney's story through interactive galleries, original artifacts, and more. On a day-to-day operational basis, one of the museum's biggest responsibilities is the proper preservation and safe display of thousands of priceless historical artifacts. To ensure that these pieces of history are properly protected and accurately preserved, the museum employs a conservation department specializing in material analysis, conservation treatments, preservation, and proper handling and display. One of the most critical tools utilized by this department for their work is a high-performance stereo microscope that allows the extremely precise viewing and analysis of both flat and dimensional objects. To learn more about the Olympus SZ61 microscope, visit: http://www.olympus-ims.com/en/microscope/sz61/
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Published in: Science      
Source: www.slideshare.net


Transcripts - Preserving a Legend - Industrial Microscopy and Artifact Conservation at the Walt Disney Family Museum

  • 1. Preserving a Legend: Industrial Microscopy and Artifact Conservation at the Walt Disney Family Museum
  • 2. “Our department specializes in preserving all of the objects we receive here that will become part of a special exhibit or our permanent collection. What that entails is examining these objects for long-term stability, analyzing their deterioration or degradation, and working with our registration department to create proper storage housing for each object, ensuring a stable environment for the object that will slow down or inhibit any deterioration that may already be occurring.” Tonja Morris Objects Conservator The Walt Disney Family Museum
  • 3. Background The 40,000-square-foot Walt Disney Family Museum tells Walt Disney’s story through interactive galleries, original artifacts, video screens, listening stations, a Fantasia-themed theater, and a 13-foot model of Disneyland as Disney originally envisioned it. One of the museum’s biggest responsibilities is the proper preservation and safe display of thousands of priceless historical artifacts—personal objects that belonged to Disney and his family, pieces of animation art, original animation cels, early examples of Disney merchandising, equipment used by Disney and his team, and much more. Exterior of The Walt Disney Family Museum, located on the Main Post of San Francisco’s Presidio. (Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Family Museum.)
  • 4. Background To ensure that these pieces of history are properly protected—and in many cases accurately preserved—the museum employs a conservation department specializing in material analysis, conservation treatments, preservation, and proper handling and display. One of the most critical tools utilized by this department for their work is an Olympus SZ61 stereo microscope that allows the precise viewing and analysis of both flat and dimensional objects. The compact Olympus SZ61 stereo microscope offers a practical range of functions and delivers 3D images with true color, high resolution, and no distortion.
  • 5. Preservation Process “Our department specializes in preserving all of the objects we receive here that will become part of a special exhibit or our permanent collection,” said Tonja Morris, objects conservator at The Walt Disney Family Museum. “What that entails is examining these objects for long-term stability, analyzing their deterioration or degradation, and working with our registration department to create proper storage housing for each object, ensuring a stable environment for the object that will slow down or inhibit any deterioration that may already be occurring.” The Walt Disney Family Museum includes a 13-foot model of Disneyland as Walt Disney originally envisioned it. (Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Family Museum. All Disney characters copyrighted by Disney.)
  • 6. Preservation Process “In relation to exhibition, we examine each object to see if it is stable enough to go on public display,“ continued Morris. “If we determine that something is not, then it’s our job to prepare the object for display in the museum. In the case of animation art, for example, one of the common problems is that the animation cels are made of materials that do not age well over time and may be buckling or yellowing. If this is the case, we then have to determine if the animation cels and their paint media would be able to withstand being on display without suffering further deterioration.”
  • 7. Preservation Process Morris continued, “We use our Olympus SZ61 stereo microscope to determine and characterize the paint layers on each cel, giving ourselves a sense of exactly what is happening on a microscopic level within these layers. Without magnification, these cels can often appear completely stable. Under magnification, however, we may notice small cracks or fissures beginning to appear within the paint surfaces. From there, we can investigate where these cracks are originating from and what we can do to stabilize the materials, preventing further deterioration and ensuring long-term preservation.”
  • 8. Damage Treatment Beyond discovering and assessing object deterioration or damage, the SZ61 microscope is also used by Morris and her team to carry out treatments that address said damage. In the case of animation cels, paint lifting and cracking that may be made worse by room vibrations while on display is improved by stabilizing the paint in question, a procedure that is done under high magnification. “Working under the microscope, we carefully apply an adhesive system, or consolidant, to damaged paint areas, filling in cracked and damaged areas so they cannot worsen while on exhibit,” Morris explained. Among the museum’s many features is a Fantasia-themed theater. (Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Family Museum. All Disney characters copyrighted by Disney.)
  • 9. Damage Treatment “This is an area of preservation that is greatly enhanced by microscope usage—in the past, we had to take much more of a hands-off approach to this type of conservation treatment as the naked eye does not afford the level of precision needed to accurately apply our adhesive system,” Morris continued. “The SZ61 also allows us to identify what is truly the root cause of the damage we are seeing—or not seeing—without magnification, allowing us to determine what is definitively our best course of action in terms of conserving the item.”
  • 10. Technique Analysis Another benefit to working with an industrial microscope is that it gives museum staff members a chance to learn more about an artist’s technique and the materials they worked with. One example of this is when the museum was examining a painting by renowned Disney artist Mary Blair (Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Song of the South, Cinderella) prior to an exhibit of her work. The Walt Disney Family Museum Objects Conservator Tonja Morris uses the Olympus SZ61 stereo microscope to examine Alice falling down the rabbit hole, conceptual artwork by renowned Disney artist Mary Blair. (Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Family Museum. All Disney characters copyrighted by Disney.)
  • 11. Technique Analysis “While investigating the condition of one of Blair’s paintings, we were taking a closer look at what appeared to be white paint strokes,” explained Morris. “What we realized while looking at the strokes under high magnification, however, was that they were not paint strokes at all but rather areas of the painting that Blair had actually scratched out of the piece. Any areas appearing to be white were not white paint but instead white ground layers made visible by Blair scratching out the paint above. This is something we never would have known without looking at her work under a microscope.”
  • 12. Technique Analysis Following this discovery, Morris and her team then took a closer look at some of Blair’s other work, learning that this was a technique she applied to many other paintings during a period of time in her work. “This type of insight really gives us a chance to better understand an artist’s method,” Morris said. “And the more we know about an artist, the better we can preserve their work. In this case, we determined that what may have previously been thought to be areas of damage were not damage at all but rather the places where Blair placed the point of a hard tool to begin these scratches.”
  • 13. Technique Analysis The museum also uses the SZ61 to determine if and where an artist changed their approach to a piece while working on it. “In the past, we would have had no way of knowing if an artist may have changed their mind about something midway through a piece,” said Morris. “Today, however, we have the power to really determine the whole story of an artist’s approach. For example, if we see an under layer of black paint beneath a layer of blue, this might indicate that that portion of a painting was originally painted black, giving us an even deeper look into that artist’s process and thinking.”
  • 14. Examination of 3D Objects Beyond two-dimensional objects, the museum also uses its microscope system for the examination of three- dimensional pieces. “We use the SZ61 for a variety of dimensional objects,” said Morris. “In the area of ceramics, I’ve used it to assess the condition of ceramics and their glazes as well as identify whether different-colored glazes are on top or below a clear glaze, if there is a clear glaze over the ceramic, if glazed surfaces are intact, and so on. We can also use the SZ61 to take a magnified look at any cracks in a vessel, determining how far they actually extend and to what extent they may worsen.” The Olympus SZ61 allows the extremely precise viewing and analysis of two-dimensional artwork as well as three-dimensional pieces. (Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Family Museum. All Disney characters copyrighted by Disney.)
  • 15. Examination of 3D Objects “Under normal light and without magnification, cracks in ceramics are not always visible or may appear to be much less severe than they actually are,” Morris continued. “As a conservator, I may need to be thinking about an object’s structural stability before it goes on display—the SZ61 allows me to make the most accurate assessment possible as far as whether a piece of art can be safely displayed at our museum. It also allows me to make suggestions about the most appropriate method of display or how an object display case should be designed for maximum protection.”
  • 16. Expanding the Museum’s Capabilities An exciting addition to the museum’s conservation department, the Olympus SZ61 has greatly enhanced preservation capabilities while allowing staff members to perform a host of tasks that were previously not possible. “In the past, if we had preservation work that could not be properly done without magnification, we would simply not do the work rather than risk additional damage to an object, which often resulted in us not being able to display certain pieces,” explained Morris. A close-up of Mary Blair’s Alice falling down the rabbit hole conceptual artwork. (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Family Foundation. All Disney characters copyrighted by Disney.)
  • 17. Expanding the Museum’s Capabilities “One example of this is the stabilization of paint layers, which we can now perform using the SZ61,” Morris said. “The key to successful stabilization—which utilizes a consolidant to support damaged or degraded areas—is to not add any material to or place anything over original material if at all possible. Without proper magnification, this type of work is simply not possible. Now, however, we use extremely fine brushes or syringes under high magnification to carefully apply very precise amounts of consolidant between paint layers. My goal is to preserve anything original, fully maintaining the artist’s true intent.”
  • 18. Expanding the Museum’s Capabilities “Morris continued, “With the SZ61, we are now able to get a close look at what is actually happening as far as exactly where the consolidant is going or how paint or other media is reacting to it. This allows us to know exactly how well our treatment is performing and will continue to perform. In the past, we utilized very minimal magnification, which did not allow even close to the level of precision we now work with. In fact, what led us to obtain our SZ61 was an important painting in our collection that needed a stabilization treatment that we could not perform with our previous magnification system.”
  • 19. Conclusion “Because an object can look fine to the naked eye but in reality be suffering major degradation—or vice versa—having the ability to examine every piece that comes through the museum under high magnification has been an invaluable addition to our department and the museum as a whole,” Morris concluded. “Our general examination process has been greatly enhanced, as has our own ability to know what to look for in a piece as far as its level of degradation and what can be done to successfully preserve it.”
  • 20. Conclusion “We look forward to continuing to utilize the SZ61 not only in the conservation lab but as a tool that can assist in other areas of the museum, including the examination and monitoring of large exhibited objects and the creation of effective display mounting systems based on careful consideration of object condition and preservation parameters.” Cofounded by Walt Disney’s daughter, the late Diane Disney Miller, and his grandson, Walter E. D. Miller, The Walt Disney Family Museum is owned and operated by the Walt Disney Family Foundation, a nonprofit foundation.

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