Jen Jackson 4/21/10
Fellow Mounties, Quick question: My Museum is currently about 2 weeks away from a fair- sized install (35 cases, 254 objects) and we have an outside company custom fabricating our artifact cases. Since the beginning, I have insisted that the artifact cases be given a two week off-gassing period after being painted. I spoke to our fabricators today, and they have told me that they cannot make that requirement. The outsourced mount-makers even told me that the requirement is not necessary, because they will be using a low-VOC paint. They even said "The Smithsonian doesn't even off-gass their cases for two weeks." I kind of thought that 2 weeks was the industry standard? The paint is"Benjamin Moore 'Natura', which claims to be 0 VOCs. Anyone had any similar experiences?
Hi Jen, We tested BM "Aura" which claims to use very low VOC. We let samples off gas about 1 week prior to testing and conservation gave us the ok to go ahead and use it. Just as a precaution we let it off gas 2 wks. We tested different colors of Aura and some passed and some did not. I am not sure exactly why some failed other than the color tint combination made the difference. Objects made out of certain materials may be more effected by a paint fumes than others. Consult with a conservator to really get better info. Pam Gaible
Denise Fordham 4/21/10
Hi Jen- I can't speak to what the Smithsonian does, but until I see proof to the contrary, I would say 2 weeks to off-gas is a good idea. I prefer the information to come from conservators or other museum professionals, not just the case fabricator or the paint manufacturer. The paint manufacturer is trying to sell a product, and the case fabricator is trying not to lose money on their bid.
As to the other issue - Similar experience with outside exhibit fabricators not delivering what they promised or delivering on time? Absolutely. Why does this happen? I have found it's usually because of money. But sometimes it's just poor project management. I know how frustrating this can be. I'm contract mount-maker and I'm hired by museums or the exhibit fabricators as the subcontractor to make the mounts. I have been burned more than a few times by fabricators that don't follow the specs given to them. And when they deliver the cases late there isn't much you can do except make them fix it which would probably mean changing your installation schedule, or accept the work and figure out a work around. Usually what ends up is figuring out a work-around... Maybe your work-around would be 1 week for off-gassing.
Good luck with your install-
Field, George 4/21/10
I am an Objects Conservator and also on our mount building team here at the Royal B.C.Museum in British Columbia, Canada, It never fails that we always seem to be having this discussion with our internal trades as well as external suppliers: We ask for FOUR weeks for off gas and drying tine for paints, as well we have compiled an internal list of materials considered acceptable for use inside of the display cases, but we are always doing Oddy tests in our lab to give us some heads up, on if new materials are suitable. You must remember that LEEDs designations and VOC levels of products refer to human health concerns and don't necessarily translate to a product being safe for use with an artifact.
That's where Oddy tests can be helpful to determine the off-gassing of products. Jean Tetrault from CCI (the Canadian Conservation Institute) has created lists of suitable Materials for Display, Storage and Transportation. This information can be found on their website or you can contact him directly. I have worked in my present position and responsibilities for over 20 years, I have seen materials rushed into use that have turned a display of silver black in 4 days and I have been involved in extricating artifacts stuck to now after 4 months on display hardened paint surfaces. We now always place a Mylar shadow cutout under artifacts as a barrier. Who would you rather argue with, the manufacturer of the case because they didn't paint it until the last moment or your director or the artifact owner because their collection is stuck to the paint layer or the ivory inlay has curled from off gassing volatiles ?
Good luck and remember that most standards stated by manufacturers were never meant for Museum Collections.
George M. Field Objects Conservator Royal B.C. Museum 675 Belleville St. Victoria, Canada V8W 9W2 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello: I passed this query to Scott Williams, a CCI conservation scientist who has long been involved in assessing the stability of materials. Jean Tetreault is currently travelling and unavailable for comment. Scott says: 1. CCI recommend 2-4 weeks (as per the Technical Bulletin on Paints). Until someone proves our recommendation is faulty we continue to do this. 2. The client should contact the Smithsonian and find out if the claim is true, and if so why? It might be worthwhile for CCI to do the same to see if they have a good reason why we should change our recommendations. 3. VOC refers to organic compounds that contain carbon and not to inorganic compounds like hydrogen sulfide. 4. Low VOC means that there are low contents of VOC that affect health and the environment. This may not have any relationship to what damages objects. For example, acetic acid will not harm health or environment -- it is not clear whether it is considered a VOC. [from: WHAT IS A VOC? at http://www.americanchemistry.com/s_acc/sec_solvents.asp?CID=1484&DID=5852 EPA regulations include a list of compounds that are explicitly exempted from regulation as VOCs, even though they are “compounds of carbon.” In fact, there are two lists: a short list of compounds such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide that historically have not been regulated as VOCs; and a longer list of compounds that EPA has classified as “negligibly reactive.” Negligibly reactive compounds are compounds that, based on EPA studies, have been found “not to contribute appreciably to ozone formation.” This list of compounds (often referred to as “VOC-exempt compounds”) was established by EPA and is modified by regulation.
Hope this is helpful!
Carole Dignard Objects Laboratory | Laboratoire d'objets Canadian Conservation Institute | Institut canadien de conservation 1030 Innes Road | 1030, chemin Innes Ottawa, Canada K1A OM5 Phone | Téléphone : 613-998-3721 ext./poste 151 Phone (toll-free in Canada) | Téléphone (sans frais au Canada): 1-866-998-3721 Facsimile (Fax) | Télécopieur : 613-998-4721 Teletypewriter (toll-free) | Téléimprimeur (sans frais) : 1-888-997-3123 Government of Canada | Gouvernement du Canada
Jen Jackson 4/22/10
Thanks guys, you have been extremely helpful! I plan to print out this thread and take it to the fabricators. What an amazing resource this is!
Ms. Dignard, Thank you so much for your reply to the mount making forum. Wow. With people like yourself offering such clear and thorough responses, this forum has now officially become amazing. Best regards, scott jones atlas fine art service supporting a world of art
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