Conservator in the House – In-situ Conservation of the “Tree Cookie”

Posted: May 8, 2013 - 09:21 , by Nicole Richards
Heidi Sobol conducting conservation work with Tree Cookie

Submitted by Heidi Sobol, Senior Conservator of Paintings

The conservation treatment of the Douglas fir cross-section presently on display in the Life in Crisis: Schad Gallery of Biodiversity has been underway for the past couple of years … but mainly up in the labs in the Conservation Department of the ROM.  The majority of the treatments conservators perform occur in the well-equipped spaces replete with microscopes, diagnostic equipment and a wide array of supplies.  It is not often we get to climb scaffolding, maneuver around masonry or suspend from a building (ok, that never happens).  Many hours are spent in quiet solitude …

The Tree Cookie is sectioned into eight pieces of varying size.  When disassembled the conservators were able to maneuver the pieces around the labs so that they could be analyzed, cleaned and evaluated for installation. 

Once installed in the Gallery, we soon realized that under the restricted display lighting, the dates and text that correlate with the tree rings were not easily readable.  Light levels must be at low levels for most artifacts because visible and UV light radiation can adversely affect them, often causing discolouration and embrittlement.  Pigments – such as the ones used in the paint on the Tree Cookie text – are very vulnerable and can fade quickly in elevated lighting conditions.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be working on reinforcing the text of the approximately seven hundred year-old specimen.  The paint used is removable and will not affect the present coatings and paint of the Cookie.  Upon completion of the treatment, the Tree Cookie’s dates and text will be easy to read from behind the protective rail.

Quiet solitude is for the labs … please stop and ask me questions!

Click here for details on when you can find Heidi merrily working in the Schad Gallery.

Tree specimen is on loan from the Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Cell and Systems Biology at the University of Toronto.