The conservation of this piece was a lengthy and laborious one. It was a big job to undergo and the conservation work was done by Scott Taylor. Below is an interview done with him about his experience.
What made you realize you wanted to be a conservator?
ST: I was working in a production studio fabricating windows for churches, commercial and residential concerns. The owner never liked to do the repair work on older windows, so it would sit in his studio for months. I started doing it just to get it out of the way and found that I enjoyed putting new life back into the older pieces. One thing led to another, we parted ways and I started doing the work on my own. I wouldn’t consider it “conservation” at that point necessarily – more along the lines of repair & restoration. The more nuanced functioning of conservation came later when I apprenticed in a studio in New York.
Do you specialize in a certain art medium with your conserving jobs?
ST: Stained, leaded and art glass windows.
What are some of the hardest parts about conserving decorative glass pieces?
ST: Depends on the piece – each is different. To name a few: degradation of the glass substrate, removal of extreme dirt and grime, structural considerations for windows fabricated without a focus on structural stability.
What was it like finding those windows in storage gathering dust?
ST: Not a common discovery, but it happens. Learning they were from the Tiffany Studio was the surprise.
What kind of damage had accumulated on the piece?
ST: Degradation of the glass substrate, removal of extreme dirt and grime, structural considerations for windows fabricated without a focus on structural stability. Plus a significant amount of glass breakage.
What was the biggest obstacle in conserving these windows?
ST: The glass substrate deterioration in some of the glass. A treatment solution was devised with the help of other conservators more familiar with glass chemistry. The glass was treated with consolidants in conjunction with a vacuum desiccator at VMFA.
Where there any special techniques that had to be used on the window?
ST: The glass was treated with consolidants in conjunction with a vacuum desiccator at VMFA. Plus a partial re-leading was done of the lead matrix.
What other departments did you work with while working on this piece?
ST: VMFA Conservation
Were there any concerns about displaying this piece?
ST: Only that the lighting be done in a way to best show the window.
Had you ever worked on anything like this before?
What was your favorite part about working on the window?
ST: Seeing it virtually come back to life.
Is there any future maintenance involved in this work?
ST: In a museum setting, not a lot of concern. Just monitoring periodically to check consolidated glass.
How do you prevent lead deterioration?
ST: The environment is a huge factor. Salt air, highly alkaline or acidic environments will encourage deterioration. However, most windows do not exist in these environments. Another factor is the alloy which is in lead came. The addition of tin will aid significantly in preventing deterioration.
Are you able to clean the glass with any glass cleaner?
ST: For artistically and historically important pieces, deionized water with neutral pH detergents are recommended. Certain alcohol based cleaners are also acceptable. Ammonia or vinegar based cleaners are not acceptable.
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