We have entered the final two weeks of the EDAAC program, and the third stage of the engineering design process—prototyping. Last Monday, we met with our sponsors from the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and presented our top five designs. The museum preparators and conservators discussed the designs and how they addressed the most pressing concern—protection. In the end, they picked two designs for us to build. We had already formed a shopping list for each design, tweaking our design slightly to be viable with off-the-shelf materials. After deciding on the designs, we quickly placed our order for parts. We ran into some minor problems, such as certain companies not having our parts available at the time. Since we only had two weeks to finish our prototypes, we did not have the luxury of waiting for back orders. Fortunately, most of our parts arrived in a timely manner. We spent the last week building our designs. This has involved a lot of cutting and grinding, since many of the off-the-shelf parts were not exactly the measurements we needed or did not match up as we had hoped. Despite some setbacks, we are making progress and have been able to piece together one of the prototypes. Seeing the design completed, we can better understand the shortcomings and order new parts and return old parts to correct theses issues.
Over this past week, we have been focused on the brainstorming stage of our design process. We started off with each member and Dr.Wettergreen getting a hundred index cards. We had an hour to write down any keywords of ideas we could think of that were relevant to the design, no matter how outrageous or impossible. Then we shuffled all the cards together and redistributed them. We did two more rounds of brainstorming, this time writing down additional ideas based off of what was already written on the index cards.
Afterward, we taped all of our cards on the glass walls around the OEDK conference room and started stacking repeated or similar ideas on top of each other. Once the 500 index cards were narrowed down, we started sifting through the cards and putting them into concept groups, such as materials, structures, and, of course, a category for impossible ideas (e.g. magic or the Force) and crazy ideas (too difficult for us to design in the span of 9 weeks). Once we had defined groups, we tried to cut down even more on the number of cards. Finally, we arrived at design blocks, which are the necessary components of our final design, and we were able to put our concepts into these blocks.
Now, rather than brainstorming individual elements or attributes, it’s time to come up with complete designs. Through four hour-long rounds of brainstorming, during which each of us have to come up with 15 designs, our objective is to use each element listed under our design blocks at least once. Playing off of each other for new ideas, we will ultimately have all the designs that can potentially be included in next week’s Pugh analysis. Our goal will be to quantitatively evaluate the qualitative characteristics of about five designs to determine which one will eventually become our prototype.
Today we began with a simple team building exercise. With 3 large envelopes deemed as rafts, we were challenged to cross a “river.” We took a few minutes to think over the process and decided to have one person hold all the rafts and forge the way. The first person stepped on one raft, laid down the second “raft” about 2 feet in front of her, put one foot on the second raft, and waited until the next person stepped onto the first raft before removing his/her foot and putting all of his/her weight on the second raft. Then we did the same process with the third raft, and everyone shifted up a raft, with the third person now on the first raft. The second person put a foot on the third raft, and the third person put a foot on the second raft so that the last person can have a foot on the first raft. With everyone on the rafts now, the first person can step off, and everyone starts moving up while making sure to have a foot touching a raft at all times. This way we successfully crossed the river!
After the team building exercise, we looked over the list of paintings that Wynne from the MFAH gave us. There were 28 works of art, so we had each person look into 7 art pieces and analyze the reason each art might need a travel frame. The art pieces ranged from the traditional oil and acrylic paints to photograph collages, and we were able to note a variety of reasons these pieces might be difficult to store.
In the afternoon, we had an orientation at the Fondren library where we learned how to use data bases such as JSTOR and EJournal Portal. This presentation was given by Jet M. Prendeville, Art & Architecture Librarian, and John Hunter, the Science & Engineering Librarian. It was very educational and we are looking forward to utilizing the Fondren Library resources in our background research.
Today, we started out with an exercise to practice our communication skills. We split into partners, and sat with our backs to each other. We took turns being the leader and the follower. The follower held an untied shoe in his/her hands, and the leader would give details directions as to how to tie the shoe. The follower was not allowed to do any action that the leader did not tell him/her to do. From this exercise, we realized how difficult an everyday action can be when you try to put it into just words. A common mistake was the leader assuming the follower would perform certain actions without being told, such as pulling the shoelaces taut. We also noticed how the followers learned from the leaders mistakes, and added in the details when it was their turn to be the leaders. This exercise reminded us of how important little details can be and how we can always learn from each other.
The rest of the day was just spent in doing background research on our project. First, we discussed all the topics we needed to learn about, ranging from current technologies and materials (both in art and storage) to history of art conservation. Then we divided up the work and flipped through both books and websites, occasionally checking up on each other and discussing what we’ve found. Our conclusion: there is currently nothing that does what we want to achieve, but we can look at travel frames/cases and art storage to gain an idea of the sort of design we want to combine both aspects of preventive conservation. All in all, it was a rewarding day.
Using a multidisciplinary and design-based approach, our team aims to develop and market a customizable storage solution for modern and contemporary two-dimensional art pieces in the Museum of Fine Arts Houston so as to advance the field of preventive art conservation.