Central High School

Using and Elsec 765® to measure temperature, light, and humidity in the library at Central High (photo credit: Lindsey Zachman)

Central High School is a public magnet school in Philadelphia that has an impressive collection of artwork donated by alumnae that includes: paintings and prints by well-known local artists, and objects from Oceania and Africa. The school sought help for the care of their objects through conservation professionals in early 2018. The Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation assisted in the effort by completing a Conservation Assessment Program (CAP)-like survey that Melissa and her classmates helped to complete in the spring of 2018 during the first-year preventive course. Melissa and her classmates examined the environmental conditions of the artwork in the school under the guidance of Dr. Joelle Wickens and Michael C. Henry. The work included creating diagrams of the rooms, taking light and humidity readings, watching for clues of any pest damage, examining the risks of physical forces on the objects, learning about the building envelope, and interviewing various stakeholders at the school. The students recognized that ideal conditions for art materials were not attainable nor sustainable for the space, and an assessment from the students with some short and long term goals was compiled to send to the school.

Continuing the Work with the Involvement of High School Students

As a follow-up to the survey, Melissa has decided to continue in the effort by working with teachers and students to develop a housekeeping program for the school, which will involve training in care in handling, health and safety, and dry cleaning methods. She has met with some of the eager students who will be assisting in the project, and Melissa is excited to teach them more about the field of art conservation while also helping them to gain a greater appreciation for the artwork that surrounds them. This will involve the creation of training videos for housekeeping, health and safety, and care in handling catered to the specific collection in the high school. Since there is a potential risk for pesticides on some of the collection items, conservation scientist Dr. Rosie Grayburn will join the efforts to use x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy to illustrate the use of instrumental analysis in the field of art conservation. Melissa will also be working with the teachers to see if there are other way to integrate portions of the project into the student’s curriculum, and foster the connection with the school and the University of Delaware Art Conservation Department into the future.