Category Archives: Curatorial

Behind the Gray Walls: Installing Into the Deep

By Katie Buckingham, Assistant Curator

Most of my job is a lot like every other office job. My desk is in a cubicle, and I usually spend my days attending meetings and hopping between Word, Excel, and Microsoft Office. But, one of my favorite parts of my job is when I get to escape my desk and step behind our gray temporary walls to install the art in our exhibitions.

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Working on one of our newest exhibitions, Into the Deep, is one of my favorite projects so far – partially because the work in the exhibition presented some interesting challenges, and partially (ok, mostly) because it is a show I’ve been working on curating for almost two years. It was an amazing experience to finally meet artwork I had only seen in photos and to stand in 3D space that I had only been visualizing on paper.

One of my curatorial goals was to give visitors a sense of the diverse number of ways you can use glass to make art. To fulfill this goal I looked for artwork that was as different as possible from the hand-sculpted vase or bowl many you probably have at home. This goal had a fun side-effect for me – several of the pieces in the exhibition presented our Curatorial team with some unique installation challenges.

Blue Dome, by Seattle-based artist Kait Rhoads, is a giant (almost 9-foot tall) dome covered with individual blue glass scales. Visitors are encouraged to stand inside the dome and look up to feel like they are standing underwater.

Kait Rhoads (American, born 1995). Blue Dome, 1995. Single-strength plate glass, cut, drilled and fired with glass enamels; Courtesy of the artist.

Kait Rhoads (American, born 1995). Blue Dome, 1995. Single-strength plate glass, cut, drilled and fired with glass enamels; Courtesy of the artist.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to attach each of the scales individually. The dome structure is made from a sturdy, steel frame. Kait Rhoads created a system where sheets of scales (attached individually to chicken wire) could be hung in sections across the metal frame.

Artist Kait Rhoads (in center of dome) works with MOG art handler Elizabeth Mauro to connect a section of glass scales to the steel frame. On the left of the frame, you can see small tags that are used to mark the connection points for the sections of scales.

Artist Kait Rhoads (in center of dome) works with MOG art handler Elizabeth Mauro to connect a section of glass scales to the steel frame. On the left of the frame, you can see small tags that are used to mark the connection points for the sections of scales.

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Art installation is definitely a team effort. Here, Rebecca Engelhardt (MOG’s Exhibition/Collections Manager) and Kait Rhoads hold a section of scales on the outside of the dome, while art handler Elizabeth Mauro secures the section to the frame with wire.

It took a team of 4 people almost 6 hours to install Blue Dome.

It took a team of four people almost six hours to install Blue Dome.

Two Seas, by Shayna Leib is another piece which took a whole team to hang on the wall. Leib is an avid scuba diver, and each of the frames in this piece represent species of coral, sea grass, or anemone seen through the lens of her underwater camera. Each of the frames is teeming with life, made from fragile, individually-sculpted pieces of glass.

Shayna Leib (Americna, born 1975). Two Seas, 2012. Glass, silver leaf and resin; Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Eric Tadsen.

Shayna Leib (Americna, born 1975). Two Seas, 2012. Glass, silver leaf and resin; Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Eric Tadsen.

Each of the picture frames arrived carefully packed in individual boxes, which were shipped together in a large, padded wooden crate. We unpacked and cleaned each piece of glass, using Q-Tips, glass cleaner, and canned air to dust the crevices between each glass tentacle.

A large table is set up in the galleries so each piece can be cleaned and prepared to hang on the wall.

A large table is set up in the galleries so each piece can be cleaned and prepared to hang on the wall.

Parts of Two Seas were so detailed that we had to use Q-Tips to make sure all of the surfaces were sparkly and clean. Leib uses tweezers to set each piece of glass individually into resin, and in doing so creates the effect of the individually drifting tentacles of anemones.

Parts of Two Seas were so detailed that we had to use Q-Tips to make sure all of the surfaces were sparkly and clean. Leib uses tweezers to set each piece of glass individually into resin, and in doing so creates the effect of the individually drifting tentacles of anemones.

Often, artists will provide a template along with the artwork, so that we can hang a piece on the wall to their specifications. This is especially important for a piece like Two Seas, where the frames have to hang in a grid, but close enough together so that some of the glass tentacles from adjacent frames have the appearance of overlapping with each other.

MOG art handler Elizabeth Mauro marks the template for on the wall. By hanging the template on the wall using a level, she is able to push a nail through the paper template, leaving a mark on the wall where each mount needs to be attached.

MOG art handler Elizabeth Mauro marks the template for on the wall. By hanging the template on the wall using a level, she is able to push a nail through the paper template, leaving a mark on the wall where each mount needs to be attached.

Each of the framed glass pieces is attached to the wall using a french cleat. A french cleat is made from two pieces of wood, cut at a corresponding angle. One half of the cleat is attached to the wall, and the other to the top of the piece of artwork (see diagram below). The wood is cut at a steep angle, which act like two puzzle pieces, locking together to secure the artwork to the wall.

The diagonal cut in a French cleat creates two puzzle pieces which lock together to secure the artwork on the wall.

The diagonal cut in a french cleat creates two puzzle pieces which lock together to secure the artwork on the wall.

Elizabeth attaches the French cleat for piece #3 to the wall, and double-checks that it is level. The small pieces of blue tape are points marked from the template where the other French cleats will be attached.

Elizabeth attaches the french cleat for piece #3 to the wall, and double-checks that it is level. The small pieces of blue tape are points marked from the template where the other French cleats will be attached.

After all of the french cleats are attached to the wall, we can hang each of the frames. Here, Elizabeth is wearing gloves to keep the glass clean.

After all of the french cleats are attached to the wall, we can hang each of the frames. Here, Elizabeth is wearing gloves to keep the glass clean.

Halfway finished! Two Seas is made of 13 framed glass compositions, which are each hung individually to the wall. Each frame is assigned a unique number, so we know which frame goes where, as well as which french cleat to use.

Halfway finished! Two Seas is made of 13 framed glass compositions, which are each hung individually to the wall. Each frame is assigned a unique number, so we know which frame goes where, as well as which french cleat to use.

Now complete, Two Seas is featured on the title wall of Into the Deep.

Now complete, Two Seas is featured on the title wall of Into the Deep.

These two pieces are just the tip of the iceberg (or should I say reef). I hope you can come down to Museum of Glass and dive on into the rest of the exhibition. Into the Deep is open through September 2017. Check out our calendar at http://museumofglass.org/event-calendar to learn more about events and activities related to the exhibition.

Katie Buckingham is the Assistant Curator at Museum of Glass. She is an alumnus of Whitman College (BA) and University of Washington (MA). In her life outside of the Museum she is outside as much as possible, wearing skis as often as she does hiking boots.   

Care and Handling of Artwork at Museum of Glass: Protection from Fire, Water, and Pests

By Rebecca Engelhardt, Collections and Exhibitions Manager

As part of our ongoing series on the care of artwork at Museum of Glass (MOG), this post reviews the methods that we use to protect our collections from fire, water, and pests.

The Curatorial department at MOG works closely with our colleagues in the Security and Facilities departments to monitor for the threat of fire, water, and pests.

Fire

Insuring that our smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are properly installed, accessible, and inspected lowers the threat of fire.

Deborah Oropallo, Untitled (from the Under Fire series), 2002. Collection of Museum of Glass

Deborah Oropallo, Untitled (from the Under Fire series), 2002. Collection of Museum of Glass

Careful storage of flammable chemicals in specially designed cabinets, like this one, isolates them away from the artwork we have on display and in storage.

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Leaks and Floods

Much like your own home, damage from rising groundwater or from broken plumbing is a risk to our collection. Undetected or remedied leaks or floods will result in water damage of objects, and could lead to mold, another thread to the collection.

Martin Blank, Fluent Steps, 2008. Extra care is taken to monitor the effects of the climate on this outdoor sculpture at the Museum. Our Curatorial staff works with engineers and conservators who are specially trained in this material.

Martin Blank, Fluent Steps, 2008. Extra care is taken to monitor the effects of the climate on this outdoor sculpture at the Museum. Our Curatorial staff works with engineers and conservators, who are specially trained in this material.

We monitor the building for any leaks and keep a fully-stocked set of disaster response supplies at hand.

You can build your own emergency kit for flooding and leaks, or purchase vendor pre-made kit like this one from University Products - http://www.universityproducts.com/cart.php?m=product_list&c=166

You can build your own emergency kit for flooding and leaks or purchase vendor pre-made kit like this one from University Products – http://www.universityproducts.com/cart.php?m=product_list&c=166

Covered display vitrines and storage shelving adds a layer of protection from leaks.

Masters of Studio Glass: Richard Meitner - 2009

Masters of Studio Glass: Richard Meitner – 2009

Pests

Pests are another risk that museums try to avoid. At MOG, we do not allow food, drinks, or potted plants in our galleries or storage areas, as these things all attract pests. We also ask that our custodial team stays on top of their housekeeping to deter vermin and insects.

Although most of the artwork at the Museum is glass (and not so tasty to pests), many pieces at the Museum include materials such as paper and wood. These are the organic materials that are easily damaged by pests.

This piece, Vanity, by Joseph Gregory Rossano is an prime example of mixed-media artwork that contains not only glass, but wood and paper that are a food source for many pests. Photo by Duncan Price.

This piece, Vanity, by Joseph Gregory Rossano is an prime example of mixed-media artwork that contains not only glass, but wood and paper that are a food source for many pests. Photo by Duncan Price.

Watch out for pests who would like to dine on the materials in your artwork!

Stay tuned for more on caring for art at MOG!

For more from the Care and Handling of Artwork series, check out:

Rebecca Engelhardt is the Registrar/Collections Manager at Museum of Glass. Her background includes ten years at MOG, plus time at major museums such as Smithsonian Institution and The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

Care and Handling of Artwork at Museum of Glass

By Rebecca Engelhardt, Registrar/Collections Manager

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All exhibitions at Museum of Glass (MOG) are supported by the curatorial team. It is our job to make sure the galleries look spectacular for our visitors to enjoy.

In addition to keeping our objects looking beautiful, it is also our job to keep them safe. And as a museum, we are challenged to keep them safe “in perpetuity” (which means forever)!

How do we do that, you ask? Fortunately, we have colleagues throughout the world who study the effects of the environment on a variety of historic and art objects and set out guidelines for their care.

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We use a system of policies and procedures (called “Preventative Conservation”) to combat the effects of all “agents of deterioration”.

Defined by the Canadian Conservation Institute, “The agents of deterioration identify ten primary threats specific to heritage environments and encourage their prevention at the collections level.” The ten agents are: Direct Physical Forces, Thieves and Vandals, Fire, Water, Pests, Pollutants, Light, Incorrect Temperature, Incorrect Relative Humidity, and Dissociation.

So, how do we at MOG go about combating these agents, and how does what we do apply to your own collections at home?

In a series of blog posts, we will share how MOG implements the preventative measures for every one of the agents.

This post is dedicated to “Direct Physical Forces” which includes things like: shock, vibration, abrasion, and gravity. This is a big one for glass!

Since the Museum is seated in the Ring of Fire, our staff is always thinking about how to protect our fragile artifacts from the vibrations potentially caused by earthquakes.

At the same time, we are taking precautions against the rumbling trains rumbling past our building and the possible accidents that might result from a potentially clumsy visitor or while setting up an exhibition.

Objects are at risk from damage every time you handle them.

We use several methods to secure objects to the platforms they are displayed on. One of our favorite materials is a sticky substance called Rhoplex N580™ that aids our team in securing objects of many sizes.

Rhoplex is placed on the bottom of artwork. These sticky dots keep objects from sliding around or falling over.

Rhoplex is placed on the bottom of artwork. These sticky dots keep objects from sliding around or falling over.

For larger objects, or ones that are more at risk of toppling over, we use a latex water based adhesive (it’s a lot like silicone). Once it dries, the adhesive “glues” the artifact down.

Museum of Glass crew member securing segments of work by Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová, 2002.

Museum of Glass crew member securing segments of work by Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová, 2002.

For objects that don’t sit flat on the top of the display case, or need a little more security, we call a “mount maker,” a specially trained technician who builds a customized support—usually out of metal—that locks onto the object and generally gets screwed to the display furniture. For really large artifacts, we consult with structural engineers who make sure that we have designed our mounts according to the proper building codes.

When you visit our Museum, or any other, there are always many more objects stored behind-the-scenes that will be used in future exhibitions, or by researchers. We want to keep those objects safe, too. Our storage shelves are very carefully designed to prevent the glass from sliding off the edge as well.

Museum of Glass’ Permanent Collection is safely stored—each with a customized nest in the compact foam-lined shelves.

Museum of Glass’ Permanent Collection is safely stored—each with a customized nest in the compact foam-lined shelves.

Handling artwork is where most accidents can happen. So, at MOG, we are all carefully trained on how to follow a specific set of rules to protect our collections. We use a lot of specially designed equipment as well as some things you might see in your own home.

Transportation to and from the Museum is something we plan very carefully. There are even commercial transportation companies that work exclusively with (or have a special fleet assigned to) fine arts. We also build crates designed to minimize shock and vibration during the journey, which might be as far away as Australia!

Look for our next post about dealing with protection from thieves and vandals!

Rebecca Engelhardt is the Registrar/Collections Manager at Museum of Glass. Her background includes ten years at MOG, plus time at major museums such as Smithsonian Institution and The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.