Cleaning and tagging ceramics

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    • #131996
      Kate Montlack

      I am preparing to catalog several hundred ceramic vessels and other small ceramic objects for an upcoming exhibition. These are works that have never been documented or exhibited before and are currently stored in the (deceased) artist’s home and barn. The works that are in the barn, according to the show’s curator who has done a site visit, are generally dirty and also covered in bird poo. Excellent.

      So, two questions: 1. Any thoughts on how to clean these ceramics? I believe they are mostly glazed stoneware, but am not sure and am leary about submerging them. My current thinking is to clear any surface dirt with a soft brush then perhaps use diluted dish soap and cotton balls, as per a suggestion by one source. 2. I’m looking for recommendations for a reversible, temporary tagging system. My first thought was actual paper tags on string, however what about pieces that do not have a likey attachment point (handle, etc.)? Would low-adhesive tape on the bottom surfaces be out of the question?

      Thanks for any suggestions!

      Kate Montlack

    • #132001
      Ella Rayburn

      I’ll leave the cleaning methods to others, but submit a heads- up warning about histoplasmosis from bird droppings. Although this does not sound like the usual pile of dung under a roost, I would still be careful with releasing fine dust and spores. Use a good mask and protect your eyes.

    • #132000
      Anne Lane

      If I can’t find a way to tie a tag onto a piece of ceramic, I just drop it inside.

      You should probably wear a respirator, or at least a good dust mask, as well as gloves and protective clothing – bird poop can be dangerous to your health.
      Anne Lane
      Mountain Heritage Center
      Western Carolina University

    • #131999
      Kate Montlack

      The possible health concerns hadn’t crossed my mind! Thanks for the warnings!

    • #131998

      Kate, a lot of institutions still use permanent marking systems.
      might give you some ideas for the bottoms or the pieces. I think for temporary marking for exhibits, using a Stabilo pencil on the bottom (if it’s glazed) would work, but if there’s no reason not to, I’d use the more permanent ink and barrier coats. I have a lot of weirdly shaped plastic things in our collection (can’t use those marking systems on plastic), and I use cotton tape with a label and then just wrap it around however it will stay – looks a lot like wrapping Christmas presents. That’s only useful for storage, though.
      Bird poop is usually removable with water, the more resistance stuff can be removed with vinegar, but i’ll leave the appropriateness of that to the conservation people.

    • #131997
      Kate Montlack

      Hey Judith,

      Thanks for the advice! The issue I have with marking in Stabilo or ink–and I should have made this clear in my initial post–is that my institution is non-collecting, so these works will only be processed and tagged for this single exhibition, then returned to the lender. Permanent marking is out. Hence the tags or tape ideas.



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