Crew conserving art


Crew conserving art



Helen Robertson speaking at the Art at Sea Symposium


It will come as no surprise that priceless pieces of art, from sculptures to paintings, feature in many yacht’s collections. Are owners aware that their precious works on board – in some cases, collections that out value the vessel they are placed on – may be depreciating rapidly due to improper care? At last month’s Art at Sea Symposium, much of the conversation centered on the fact that many crews may not be equipped with the knowledge to properly care for the art on board.

There are many elements that can impact an artwork’s condition; the layout of a yacht (the artwork’s proximity to a window with excessive light levels, for example), the temperature, the levels of humidity, vibration and the possibility of encountering water or pollutants. Helen Robertson, senior object and preventive conservator at the National Maritime Museum, spoke to SuperyachtNews to discuss the importance of educating crew about conservation techniques. Robertson, who worked as a chief stewardess for over a decade, first became interested in conservation when she felt obligated to speak to the yacht’s owner after noticing a piece of art deteriorating. “I knew that something was wrong, that the designer didn’t want to change the look and nobody else was going to step in and do anything about it. The last resort was going to the owner and try to explain what was happening.”

Robertson explains that these works of art are often (evidently) aesthetically appreciated by the owners, but also monetarily valued. This, she recalls, was the most effective way to ensure that the piece of art was correctly cared for and repositioned. “The realization that the artwork was effectively being destroyed was enough to make him move it. He didn’t think about it until it was pointed out from a realistic, financial investment point of view that he actually did something. He loved the work, but he didn’t understand necessarily what was happening to it and the damage being done.”

“The realization that the artwork was effectively being destroyed was enough to make him move it. He didn’t think about it until it was pointed out from a realistic, financial investment point of view that he actually did something. He loved the work, but he didn’t understand necessarily what was happening to it and the damage being done.”

The thought-process behind the placement and care of artwork varies between each project. Some owners (and their designers) begin a yacht’s design with the pieces at the forefront of their minds, whereas others do not consider it so carefully. Robertson’s experience on one vessel – where the art was being compromised – encouraged her to do some of her own research on best practices. “Early in my stewardessing days, I worked on one boat that had a sizeable collection but its care was an afterthought. So, that led me to discover the National Trust Manual of Housekeeping to learn more,” she remarks.

The interior crew of a superyacht is trained to an incredibly high level, but the care of art is not often something that is known on board. “I realized that, from a housekeeping point of view, we were trained to clean and to be well-presented, but not necessarily trained to care and conserve. Therefore, finding that manual really helped me understand a bit more, of what was going on, especially with elements that I couldn’t see, and to introduce different practices.”

An appreciation of art and an understanding of the artist’s intent is also important. She recalls an incident where a junior stewardess attempted to pick off original painted cornflakes from a Basquiat painting, potentially ruining it. Another story involved a captain removing the ‘packaging’ from a priceless Christo, where the wrapping was a core part of the artwork itself.

The prevalence of discretion is an issue that is often encountered in the yachting industry, as many owners do not wish – for personal and security reasons – the world to know which artworks are on board. However, this can raise concerns when it comes to artworks that occupy a significance in cultural heritage. Conservators or art experts are often called in at late notice, or when the damage has already been inflicted on a certain piece. If damage does occur, the crew can be reticent to report any harm caused to the piece for fear of repercussions. Further, owners could also fear that damage reported could negatively impact any value of the artwork.

Robertson recommends that yacht has a comprehensive, central management system that details all the artworks on board, their current condition, ownership, and customs status and best methods to care for them. Another method to reduce any potential damage is for each yacht to have an ‘art officer’; a nominated crew member who understands the importance of using the correct materials on board. However, Robertson cites high crew turnover as an issue that yachts could encounter, suggesting that the management company take on this role or external specialist support is sought. “To place that role on an individual on board is hard, especially considering the specialist knowledge required… I know from my time as a stewardess, being crew is a full-time job and adding an extra layer of high-risk responsibility on that is not necessarily fair. Also, you don’t know how long they are going to be on board for… Where does that information go? Is it passed on?”

To combat the issues faced, and to encourage more in the industry to understand how vital it is to understand conservation of pieces on board, Robertson will be working with Pandora Mather-Lees (founder of Pandora Art Services and co-organizer of the Art at Sea Symposium) to develop training courses for the crew. Conservation of artwork and its impact on yacht’s designs and systems will be discussed in detail in the next issue of The Crew Report.

German museum returns looted art to indigenous Alaskans


German museum returns looted art to indigenous Alaskans


BERLIN (AP) — A Berlin museum has returned ancient wooden masks, an idol and other spiritually significant artifacts plundered from graves by an explorer to indigenous Alaskans, ending an odyssey in which many of the items were thought forever lost.

The masks, carved from spruce or hemlock, are daubed with red pigment — a traditional tincture made of seal oil, human blood, and powder from a stone that indicate they were used in burial ceremonies by tribes in the Chugach area of Alaska.

One mask comes to a sharp point at the top, symbolizing the deceased’s transition to the spirit world. Another shows a face with one eye open and the other closed.

Their exact age hasn’t been determined, but they’re thought to be up to 1,000 years old. They were taken from graves in caves on Chenega Island in Alaska’s Prince William Sound and a place known as Sanradna, whose exact location is no longer known, said John Johnson, a representative of the Chugach Alaska Corporation. The group today represents the region’s indigenous people.

“They’re a connection between the dead and the living, the future and the past,” he said Wednesday. “If you look, one eye open, one eye shut, it’s like traveling between two worlds.”

The nine artifacts were among some 200 Chugach items collected for Germany’s Royal Museum of Ethnology by Norwegian adventurer Johan Adrian Jacobsen between 1882 and 1884.

Several were thought lost at the end of World War II after being looted from the museum by Soviet Red Army troops, but they resurfaced in St. Petersburg, Russia. They were then given to a museum in Leipzig in communist East Germany in the 1970s.

Berlin’s Ethnological Museum only learned in the 1980s that they had survived and eventually secured their return.

Johnson learned of their existence from Jacobsen’s journals, where the explorer detailed how he had found them in caves and taken them. He traced them to the Ethnological Museum.

He led a delegation to Berlin in 2015 and has been working since then with the museum and the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which oversees Berlin’s museums, to establish their provenance and organize restitution.

Other items collected by Jacobsen were determined to have been fairly obtained through purchase or trade.

Elsewhere, Denmark has already returned human remains that were taken from the Chugach area. Johnson said much work remains to research the provenance of other artifacts scattered in museums around the U.S. and the world, including Britain, Russia, and Finland.

“Sometimes museums feel that this is the end, that it’s a sad day, but this is really a new beginning,” he said. “The more you work together, the more you understand and enjoy the significance of these artifacts.”

Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation President Hermann Parzinger carefully handed one of the masks to Johnson at a ceremony Wednesday, saying he hoped they could work together on future historical and cultural projects.

Work is underway on an exhibition on Jacobsen, who brought thousands of items to Germany from settlements on the northwest coast of Canada and Alaska. It will offer what Parzinger said will be a “critical examination of the history of the collection from today’s perspective.”

The self-proclaimed captain’s accounts are more adventure than anthropological, Parzinger said.

“Johan Adrian Jacobsen was no academic, he was a sailor,” he said.

Ideally, the artifacts returned Wednesday would go back into the caves from which they were taken, Johnson said, but since that’s impossible to do without risking their destruction, the hope is that they will be put on public display in a regional museum.

“They say a picture’s worth 1,000 words, but when you have the object it could be a million,” he said. “You learn so much when you see them up close.”

Former Illinois Railway Museum volunteer accused of stealing more than $28K by falsifying invoices

Daily, local and breaking news for McHenry County, Illinois - Northwest Herald

Former Illinois Railway Museum volunteer accused of stealing more than $28K by falsifying invoices

Longtime Illinois Railway Museum volunteer accused of falsifying invoices

KATIE SMITH – May 16, 2018


Whitney Rupp – – The entrance to the Illinois Railway Museum in Union is seen Tuesday.


A former Illinois Railway Museum volunteer has been charged with embellishing invoices paid by the nonprofit and pocketing thousands of overpaid dollars.

According to a 27-count criminal complaint filed in McHenry County court, 60-year-old Rod L. Turner was reimbursed for about $28,767 worth of supplies and services the organization never received.

The Union-based museum operates on about $1 million each year, not including the cost of equipment restoration projects, which largely are funded by donations, museum director and treasurer Nigel Bennett said in an email Tuesday.

“To the extent that the misappropriation was of donor-restricted funds, these have been made good,” Bennett said.

Turner is accused of falsifying at least 26 invoices, purportedly from companies providing services such as steel and engine work from December 2015 to October 2016, the complaint shows.

Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Turner declined to comment on the charges and said he has not yet hired an attorney.

Turner had been a volunteer at the museum for about 10 years, eventually becoming the curator of the organization’s electrical car department, Bennett said.

His volunteer work came to a halt in November 2016, when museum staff learned of potentially misappropriated funds.

“In late 2016, the Illinois Railway Museum became aware of actions by a long-standing senior volunteer that raised the possibility that museum funds had been misappropriated,” Bennett wrote in a statement. “In consultation with attorneys, forensic auditors were employed to investigate and document the suspect activities.”

Out on bond, Turner made a court appearance Tuesday morning, when McHenry County Judge James Cowlin granted him one month to hire an attorney.

Turner, of the 300 block of East Palace Row, Geneseo, will be allowed to occasionally travel to Iowa for business.

The Illinois Railway Museum was founded in 1953 by 10 men who each contributed $100 to buy a rail car, according to the organization’s website.

Owned and operated entirely by volunteers, the museum receives no state or federal money. All of the organization’s operating costs are paid by individual donations and profits from ticket sales, according to the website.

In the past 60 years, the museum has acquired more than 400 pieces of equipment, including horse cars, steam locomotives, and trolleys. Tickets grant visitors access to train rides and tours of exhibits.

Bennett said in the written statement that the organization relies heavily on its volunteers, and it has established new procedures to reduce the risk of further theft. Moving forward, staff will enforce strict limits on amounts that can be paid by individuals and later reclaimed. They also will work toward better delegating responsibilities among volunteers, Bennett said.

“In this environment, it is natural to place a greater degree of trust in the volunteers than might be the case with employees of a commercial organization,” the statement read. “Indeed, this is the first such incident of which we are aware in the 60-year history of the museum.”


Banksy hoax caveman art to go back on display at British Museum


Banksy hoax caveman art to go back on display at British Museum

May 16, 2018

BRITISH MUSEUM – Peckham Rock came with a highly authentic-looking information label


A fake cave painting by Banksy is going back on display in the British Museum, 13 years after it was first placed there as a hoax.

Peckham Rock, essentially a lump of concrete showing a supposed prehistoric figure pushing a shopping trolley, was smuggled into the venue in 2005.

It stayed for three days before staff realized it didn’t belong there.

Banksy has now loaned the work back to the museum for an exhibition curated by Ian Hislop.

The Private Eye editor and Have I Got News for You panelist has chosen more than 100 objects for a show opening in September titled I Object: Ian Hislop’s Search for Dissent.

When Peckham Rock was first placed in the museum in 2005, it was accompanied by an authentic-looking information label.

“The work is not very big and we think he [Banksy] just came into the museum like any other visitor and installed it himself – but we just can’t be sure,” a spokesman said.

“The information label was also just like the ones we use at the museum to prevent suspicion.”

The work was only discovered after a museum staff member saw on Banksy’s website that he was challenging people to find the hoax work.

BRITISH MUSEUM – Ian Hislop admires a mock portrait of himself that’s in the show

Since being returned to Banksy, the rock has featured in his exhibitions in London and Bristol and is on loan directly from the artist for Hislop’s exhibition.

Hislop’s exhibition aims to illustrate stories of satire, subversion, and dissent.

“At first sight, the British Museum seems to be a reinforcement, if not a celebration, of authority,” he said.

“But… there are extraordinary objects that bear witness to someone questioning the authorized version of their times and deciding to make a small though often lasting protest.”

Items on show will include an Edwardian coin defaced with the slogan Votes for Women, 18th Century prints mocking George IV as a drunk, and a salt cellar with hidden Catholic imagery made during the English Reformation.

10 Tips For Crisis Management

10 Tips For Crisis Management


Andrew Sheeves  – May 17, 2018

I have been thinking about effective crisis management a lot recently and am working on a more in-depth piece on managing a crisis which I hope to publish soon.  However, crises don’t wait until we are properly prepared before they strike so I put together this quick set of suggestions as a stop-gap.

Normally, I wouldn’t make a top-10 list but sometimes it’s the easiest way to share ideas.  So here goes and I hope you find these suggestions useful.

10 tips for effective crisis management

  1. Go back in time

A successful crisis response begins days, weeks, months, even years before the first bad headline. Thinking that you can start preparing when the phones begin to ring is naive and short-sighted. Individual and team skills need to be honed, institutional muscle memory developed and plans and processes built and tested well before something happens if you want to be successful. So get ready now because the crisis will hit whether you are ready or not.

  1. Get to the bottom fast

Even in a crisis, you need to ask ‘how bad could this be?’ This is the worst case scenario so avoid trying to minimize things or look on the bright side and remember that a slow ‘drip, drip’ of bad news is very hard to respond to.  Work out how bad things are and confront the whole situation, unpleasant as it is, as quickly as possible.  Someone is going to tell your story and it’s better that you are that someone.

The one thing I learned about crisis … if you’re in a crisis, you have to find the bottom and find it fast. … You’ve got to describe it, and you’ve got to be willing to describe it probably in some amount of detail that gives the public confidence that you know where the bottom is and third, you have to describe in good specificity how you’re going to dig yourself out of it.

Former US Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend

  1. Throw everything at the problem

Don’t take an incremental, sequential approach. So instead of starting with Plan A, followed by a bigger Plan B if that fails, then pulling out all the stops for plan C, you need to throw all the people, resources, and money you have at the problem right away. Run plans A, B and C (and D, E, F….) simultaneously so if one fails, the other is already in progress. A decisive, rapid response with overwhelming resources can defuse a crisis but a slow, piecemeal approach will only draw things out and make it worse.

  1. Expect change

One of the most important things I was taught in the military was to routinely ask ‘Has the situation changed since we made this plan?’ This was a reminder to confirm that assumptions were still valid, to check nothing had changed in the area of operations and to ensure that other parts of the plan were progressing as anticipated.  If the answer was yes and something had changed then it was time to rethink things, adapt to the new situation and press on. Crises are constantly in flux so make sure that you are always asking ‘what’s changed?’ and that you are responding to the current situation, not what things looked like hours or days previously.


  1. Execute, execute, execute

Allocate 20% of your time to planning and dedicate everything else to making that plan work. Repeat.

  1. Don’t focus on the obvious

If the root problem and solution were obvious, you probably wouldn’t be in a crisis. Obvious problems with obviously solutions should have been tackled well before these became a crisis. So maybe the issue isn’t the fraud, it’s the cover-up. The oil spill is bad but the flippant, insensitive comments from your CEO are thwarting the cleanup and causing additional, long-term damage to your organization.

  1. Acknowledge your limits

You will have limits both individually and as a team. Acknowledge these and remember that seniority doesn’t always equal experience which doesn’t always equal competence. It might be admirable for the Captain to go down with their ship but it’s inexcusable for the Captain to steer the ship into danger when a more competent subordinate could have taken them to safety.  Which leads to…

  1. Check your ego (and your gut)

Your ego and gut instincts may very well be what got you here in the first place so a crisis isn’t the time to expect to solve things through sheer force of will and instinct. Humble pie isn’t very appetizing but it tastes better than failure.

  1. Maintain discipline

Crises are not the time for sloppiness and individuals and teams need to stay disciplined. Follow the plan, use the procedures and processes that have been agreed, stay in your lanes. Crises are survivable but not if the response is a free-for-all.

  1. Prepare for the long haul

Emergencies are over in minutes or hours but crises last for years. Your response needs to be structured so that the organization can continue to devote time, resources and management focus to the problem for an extended period. All while also ensuring that the rest of the organization continues to operate. In the short term, this means having alternates to allow people to have a break, to rest and to clean up. Longer-term this can mean rotating people in and out of teams completely. This provides fresh, rested minds, new perspectives and a renewed sense of urgency and seriousness which can erode over time.

As soon as the response feels like routine activity, you need to change people over to maintain the urgency and respect that a crises demands to be successful.

Bonus #11. Take it seriously

To do any of this assumes that you are taking things seriously in the first place: there is a big gap between saying you are serious and actually being serious. Every organization’s leaders will say that they prioritize crises preparedness but in practice, they ignore red flags hoping they will go away, spend less time annually on crisis preparation than they do on haircuts and, when something does finally happen, don’t take it seriously until it is too late.  In many situations, crises are avoidable, manageable and survivable but only if you take things seriously.