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Repairing Family Treasures

April 22nd, 2011

Repairing Family Treasures

Chris Caynor

In the spring semester of 2011, I decided to take on an extra conservation project outside of class.  Last Christmas, as we do every year, my mother and I decorated the tree with a collection of glass ornaments assembled over my parents’ 35+ year marriage.  A snowflake, composed of clear and red tinted blades of glass, fell and broke into three distinct shards on the wooden floor.  At the end of the season, as we cleaned up and put everything away, a cardinal, which I believed to be glass, that sits on the edge of a glass bowl fell and broke along the supporting edge that holds it to the bowl.

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Thankfully, in conservation we discussed the use of an optical barrier to repair breaks in glass and create a nearly seamless line.  Using a mixture of a solvent and an archival acrylic resin which acted as an optical barrier, I cemented the broken edges of these objects back together.  The snowflake readily took to the treatment and after a 24-hour cure, had hardened to near its original strength.  The only notable visual evidence of damage is from missing glass that I chose not to fill in with additional resin.

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This was not as true for the apparent glass bird.  I quickly found that the solvent mixture ate away at the surface and created sticky red goo.  I believe this to reveal that the bird is actually constructed from some form of acrylic or hard plastic.  Luckily, the surface set back into a solid state as the resin hardened and the break is now repaired.  Interestingly enough, there are now bubbles in material surrounding the repaired break that suggest some form of chemical reaction.  Thanks to my time in conservation and some great advice and help from Ms. Grieve, this Christmas I will be able to return both of these ornaments to my mother.

General Conservation

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