PowerPoint Presentation - Glass Flowers

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					   Glass Flowers
 The conservation and restoration
of the Ware Collection of Blaschka
      Glass Models of Plants
       Leopold Blaschka and Rudolf Blaschka
                1822-1895            1857-1939

Living in the late 19th century, Leopold and his son Rudolf
Blaschka were commissioned by Professor George Lincoln
Goodale of Harvard University to make a collection of
anatomically correct glass plants for the purpose of teaching

The Blaschka duo made over 3000 pieces for Harvard made of
an amalgamation of glass, paint, organic materials, glue and
The perfect anatomical accuracy and realistic appearance
 of these glass flowers have never been matched in the
 hundred years that have passed since they were made,
  making them even more valuable and irreplaceable.
In 2000 the glass
flowers exhibit was
taken off display to be
restored and to have
the gallery redone to fit
the latest conservation
standards. About time,
seeing as the entire
collection had been on
constant display since
Problems with the flowers were numerous, one of the biggest ones being
the reverberations from the large wooden staircase leading up to the
exhibit, as Emer McCourt, head of marketing and public relations for
HMNH said “"We have 200 school-kids running up and down the stairs
every day. Leaves or other parts are snapping off.
Conserving the flowers was a particularly daunting task
because the flowers themselves are not 100% glass, so they
must be kept in an environment suitable for every piece of the

They also must be kept in a place where there is a happy
medium between the needed safety of the object but also be
kept in a place where they are totally accessible to be viewed.
                                      The object’s provenance
                                      dictates that to keep the
                                      collection true to itself it
                                      must be on display and
                                      readily viewed by both the
                                      public and by the student,
                                      researching the anatomy
                                      of the various plants
These century old glass flowers have
developed many problems that had to be
tackled by the conservators. the metal wires
were rusting away and even the glass itself
was having problems.

Susan Rossi-Wilcox, the curator in charge of
restoration is quoted as saying
"See the white powdery stuff on the leaves? This
is glass corrosion. The majority of these models
are affected. That's the great irony. The models
showing plant diseases are also showing glass
"It took a long time for the faculty here to go from
 thinking about the Glass Flowers as a teaching
 collection to thinking about them as art objects."
        How to clean them?!
Since there are so fragile no had even dusted them, so to get
rid of the offending dust they dunk the flowers into oxygen
gas that will combine with the organic matter in the dust to produce carbon
dioxide and steam, which eliminates the unwanted partials without physical

Over the years, ions in the glass reacted with the water molecules in the air,
creating a alkaline film over the flowers, to get rid of it they blast it with dry
ice, like they do to clean computer chips. They have also tried burning off
the tougher bits with lasers.

Finally, once the flowers are squeaky clean, how to mend the breaks?
Fusing them back together with more glass is out of the question, as putting
that amount heat into the flowers would just make them shatter. The
option of using plastic to glue them is there, but as Carlo Pantano, a
professor of materials science and engineering at Pennsylvania State
University who was working on the project said, "But we're purists, and the
idea of fixing glass flowers with plastic just isn't appealing.” the final
decision was to use this new material called solgel, a liquid glass made of
an alcohol-based silica compound that dries and contracts as the alcohol in
it evaporates, leaving a solid adhesive whose molecular structure is almost
•   http://cool.conservation-us.org/coolaic/jaic/articles/jaic32-03-002_1.html
•   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHOx5H5vNx4
•   http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/2000/11.16/12-flowers.html
•   http://cool.conservation-us.org/coolaic/jaic/articles/jaic32-03-
•   http://www.hmnh.harvard.edu/on_exhibit/the_glass_flowers_collection.
•   http://www.thecrimson.harvard.edu/article/2000/10/25/harvards-glass-
•   http://www.rps.psu.edu/sep99/glass.html
•   http://discovermagazine.com/2001/jan/featworks

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