Fulbright Specialist Award
see details below
see details below
Acceptance to the Courtauld Institute of Art
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New Business Update:
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an 18c Japanned secrétaire
detail of a
Joaquim Tenreiro chair
detail of an
Art Deco verre eglomise table
detail of a George Bullock cabinet, credit caption below
Principal & Senior Conservator
In the Studio:
Bugs in the Art!
Lately, they seem to be everywhere, including in works of art. Whether found in private collections or leading institutions, insects appear to be taking advantage of global warming and thereby putting works of art at risk.
Also, due to the increased number of international traveling exhibitions, the ability of insects to travel quickly from one end of the globe to another has risen dramatically. Such was the case recently when a group of contemporary paintings arrived from overseas for an exhibition at a noted NYC gallery. Upon opening the shipping containers, art handlers discovered insects in the plastic wrapped paintings. It was at that point that we were called in to inspect and to propose a solution.
An Awareness Develops
The word insect comes from the Latin insectum, meaning "with a notched or divided body." They comprise the most diverse body of animals, with over a million species known. They typically have an exoskeleton, a three-part body composed of a head, thorax and abdomen, three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes and a couple of antennae. The oldest recorded insect fossil, the Devonian Rhyniognatha hirsti, from the Rhynie chert in present-day Scotland, dates to 396 million years ago.
Nearly all insects hatch from eggs, and typically undergo a three or four-stage metamorphosis, with the various stages named egg, pupal, nymphal and adult. They can move about by either walking, flying or occasionally swimming. They communicate amongst each other in various ways, using sounds, light or pheromones, a secreted chemical that triggers a social response in the same species.
Art objects have the potential to be severely damaged or even destroyed when insects feed on them. As an example, the wood of polychrome sculptures, panel paintings, icons or a contemporary chair can become infested with wood-boring beetles, such as the common powderpost beetle, losing their structural strength. Other objects, such as period and contemporary costumes, historic textiles or mid-century modern rugs can become home to webbing clothes moths, which eat away at the fibers. Booklice can damage period documents and archives. Because of this, museum professionals and conservators regard insects as menacing pests and typically expend a great deal of effort in attempting to minimize their damage.
Previously, the typical approach for treating infested art objects was to utilize a poisonous gas, such as sulfuryl fluoride. This approach had drawbacks, including the possible alteration of an artworks' appearance and the health hazard it posed to the applicators. In light of that, some decades ago, conservation scientists began to research alternative methods of treatment. One such effective and reliable procedure - anoxic fumigation - became the preferred choice of institutions. It entails the creation of a flexible, airtight envelope that surrounds the work of art, and substituting the air inside with an inert gas, argon, which causes the insects to asphyxiate over time. The image above depicts a gas regulator, which regulates the amount and pressure of argon introduced into an envelope. One significant advantage of this new approach is that it is safe for humans if handled correctly. Another advantage is that it does not alter an artworks' appearance, other than for a particular color and material combination, and then only temporarily. Also, one can create the envelopes in various sizes to conform to the requirements of a specific object. This approach and variations of it have become the standard method for treating art objects in major museums in the United States and is currently referred to as "controlled atmosphere - argon gas treatment.”
A Conservator’s Approach
One of the challenges of conserving works of art is to realize that the integrity of a work of art can be compromised by biopredation - the attack on a work of art by insects, mold, and fungi. Addressing this concern becomes an element of preventive conservation, and "integrated pest management" now encompasses this whole body of knowledge. This new field includes instituting preventive measures so that pests do not enter collections, monitoring techniques so that the arrival of pests will be noticed at the earliest occurrence, identifying pests accurately (is that a varied carpet beetle or furniture carpet beetle? - both requiring different treatment approaches), and outlining solutions once an infestation is recognized. Please visit http://museumpests.net for a comprehensive introduction.
Today, many institutions screen all "at risk" works of art entering their collections for pest infestation. For example, one noted institution treats all incoming textiles with argon anoxic fumigation before fully accessioning them. They realize that an ounce of prevention is worth countless numbers of hours of future treatment, or the possible contamination of their collections.
However, once an infestation is recognized, treatment should commence. In those instances, our recently formed company, Kensington Preservation LLC (an outgrowth of Period Furniture Conservation LLC), can offer solutions for smaller institutions, dealers and private collectors. The firm’s goal is to ensure cultural legacy by the use of argon controlled atmosphere treatment of art objects. Yuri Yanchyshyn is the new firm’s Principal and Senior Conservator, so please contact us if we can be of assistance. http://kensingtonpreservation.com
Fulbright Award: Yuri Yanchyshyn was awarded Fulbright Specialist status and spent the spring of 2018 teaching the conservation of wooden artifacts at the Lviv Polytechnic National University in Lviv, Ukraine. Please follow this link for a description of his experiences:
Instructor: Over the past number of years Yuri Yanchyshyn has taught “An Introduction to the Conservation of Furniture and the Decorative Arts,” for the Comprehensive Appraisal Studies Program of the Appraisers Association of America. Scores of enthusiastic students have attended, and further information on the program can be found at
Courtauld Institute of Art: Becky Chipkin, former Conservation Intern at Period Furniture Conservation from 2017-2018, was recently accepted to the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, UK, to begin her postgraduate diploma studies in easel painting conservation. Yuri Yanchyshyn is dedicated to nurturing aspiring young conservators, both with employment and in their further careers. Further information on studying conservation at the Courtauld Institute of Art can be found at
New Business Update: Our art object anoxic fumigation service has grown to the point where it will now be practiced under a separate business name, Kensington Preservation LLC. Numerous institutions, galleries and private collectors have taken advantage of our expertise. Please consider us should you require this unique service. Details can be found at
George Bullock cabinet credit caption:
George Bullock, English (ca. 1782-1818). Side Cabinet, ca. 1815. Marble, mirror, lacquered-brass, Brazilian Rosewood, and ebony over an unidentified softwood substrate, 36 × 80 × 21 3/4 inches. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri. Purchase: acquired through the generosity of the Lillian M. Diveley Fund, in honor of Shirley Bush Helzberg and her leadership on the Board of Trustees, 2018.13.1,2.
Furniture Conservator Yuri Yanchyshyn has worked with wooden objects for over 30 years, from a cabinetmakers shop to the laboratories of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Private collectors, museums, architects, designers and other conservators have all entrusted precious items from the 14th through the 20th centuries to Yuri’s care, and institutions such as Institute of Fine Arts Conservation Center invite him to lecture. Yuri holds degrees from the University of Michigan and the California Institute of the Arts and received advanced conservation training from the Amsterdam Academy for Restoration and the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education.
(c) 2018 Period Furniture Conservation LLC. All rights reserved.