S.S. White to the rescue: Salvaging fire-damaged baskets with the S.S. White/Pennwalt Airbrasive Unit

Nancy Odegaard, Melissa J. Huber, Lara Kaplan, Teresa Moreno, and Cheryl Podsiki

Abstract

Three fire-damaged Tohono O’odham baskets were brought to the conservation lab of the Arizona State Museum by a private individual who had purchased the baskets in the 1960s and 70s. The exterior of the baskets were completely covered with a heavy layer of soot, which obscured their surface designs. Preliminary tests with conventional cleaning methods such as use of dry cleaning sponges or brush vacuuming proved to be either ineffective or impractical. The S.S. White Airbrasive Unit offered a relatively fast, easy way to remove the soot, restoring the appearance of the baskets to the point where their design and craftsmanship could once again be appreciated. The paper describes the treatment, including the choice of abrasive, and discusses the ethical issues involved in a treatment of this kind.

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