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Condition Reporting


Glass fragment, clear/light green, 14.7 x 9.0 x 0.8 cm
This fragment of glass has a greenish tinge. The thicker the glass the easier it is to see the color. Looking at the edge can help. The upper corner has conchoidal fracture, a breakage pattern of stepped concentric rings typical of glassy material.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum

Glass fragment, base portion? porthole piece? 9.4 x 5.5 x 1.7 cm
This piece of glass has a lot of conchoidal fracture. Obsidian (volcanic glass) can also have conchoidal fracture.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum

Green glass bottle with added layers throughout.
This green glass bottle from a shipwreck has a large amount of marine accretion from biological growth of ocean life on its surface.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection 2015-6-44

Glass jar.
Glass jars can have multiple condition issues. Stoppers can be very securely stuck in place. The masking tape over the lid has the object number written on it. Two different kinds of cotton strings have tags. There is another label inside the jar. Document carefully all these features. In this case, it is hard to know where the accessioned object ends. What does the curator think is the artifact here? Sometimes the labels and tags include important provenance information that may link it to a bigger context. In this case, the penmanship on the paper or the way the jar was taped shut might help us identify other objects in the collection backlog that have lost their identification number.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection IV-B-396

Glass vial with layered colors (pink, yellow, brown, orange, white).
The significance of this item is the variety of colored material inside. The tape covers the shattered side of the vial. While tempting to remove tape, beware that removal of extraneous material might be a mistake.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection IV-A-34

Lighthouse lens
Many Alaskan collections include lighthouse lenses made of large prisms of glass held in metal frameworks with putty. In addition to dust and fingerprints, the glass may have cracks, chips or fractures. The putty tends to dry out and become brittle with age. Many putties also include lead.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection III-O-497

Close-up of red, blue, and white beads.
The hazy beads in this photo have “glass disease”. This condition is not contagious, but the result of a mistake in the recipe for the glass. This is an example of “inherent vice.” Usually too much flux was added to lower the melting point of the glass, making the glass chemically unstable. In the early stages of glass disease, there is a soapy, slick deposit on the surface. This is sometimes called “weeping” glass.

Photo credit Scott Carrlee

Close-up of a string of yellow beads.
These yellow beads have glass disease, also known as crizzling, and the alkaline component of the glass is leaching out to the surface and depositing as white salty crusts on the surface, leaving the beads cracked and weak.

Photo credit: Sheldon Jackson Museum collection SJ-V-C-3

String of blue & green beads. Pencil points to a cracked green bead.
The green bead pointed to by the pencil is cracked. The next green bead has a telltale soapy alkaline deposit on the surface. These are signs of bead disease.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-A-1414

Close-up of a broken green bead.
This bead broke as a result of bead disease. You can still see the white alkaline crusts that leached out of the glass and weakened it until it broke.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-A-7223

Close-up of beadwork sewn on leather.
Beadwork is only as stable as the stitching that holds it in place. Loss of beadwork is common and should be noted in the condition report. You should note if the loss is not stabilized or if the bead loss is ongoing.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-C-5

Close-up of a patch of beadwork with surrounding wool that has holes in it.
Here the thread holding the beads is fine but the wool fabric has been attacked by insects, making this area of beadwork structurally unstable.

Photo credit: Sheldon Jackson Museum collection SJ-I-A-678

Close-up of backside of woven material showing threading.
Beadwork on the edges of objects is an area of vulnerability. Here, the cotton thread is weak, the corner is an area of extra wear, and there is also damage to the fabric that holds the stitches. You can see the original thread is a thick reddish thread and the repair thread is thinner and white. Note both in the condition report. If you can, see if you can find the repair information and include it in the record. Who-what-where-when-why? Who did it, what was their qualification, what kind of thread did they use, when was the repair done, and why (for example, the item needed to go on loan?)

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-C-326

Close-up of beadwork with a broken pattern.
The beads here are sinew sewn. If you can tell, note whether the beads are sewn on with thread or sinew. It can be difficult to tell if the thread is cotton, polyester, linen etc. but sinew thread is typically very very stiff, and you can distinguish this if you can see a loose end and gently test it to see how it bends or does not bend. Sinew sewn items are often older than ones made with commercial thread. Sinew also tends to be more brittle and the risk for bead loss is greater. In a “couched” beading technique, a string of beads is stitched down at intervals. Each break could result in losing quite a few beads at a time.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection 2009-10-1

Close-up of beadwork with sooty-looking beads.
The fact that this beadwork is sooty should be noted. It may be evidence of a certain kind of use. Seed beads like this are made of glazed glass, and are usually not porous. The surface can be readily cleaned. However, cleaning is an irreversible treatment and should not be done without consultation to determine what evidence is indicated.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection

Beaded woven object inside a plastic bag.
If you look carefully, you can see loose blue beads in the bag. Working with beadwork collections should always happen with a high level of vigilance to look for any sign of detached beads. Note how many and what color, and keep them in a labelled bag with the object until repairs can be done. If beads are loose, there is likely unstable beadwork somewhere and more beads could come off.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection 98-30-1