Background research

The first day of our second week was spent conducting background research on art conservation, storage, and handling. The sources we used today were books obtained from Rice’s Fondren Library.

Ting read Conserving Paintings: Basic Technical Information for Contemporary Artists, which covers processes ranging from how paintings are produced to how they are stored. This book also contained a photo and explanation of the device closest to what we intend to produce: a handling frame.

Emily read about the history of frames and their relationship to the artworks they surround in The Gilded Edge: The Art of the Frame. She learned about many of the woods that have been used to create frames from the Italian Renaissance to the present, as well as the different types of joint employed to assemble frames.

After looking over the information we found last week about materials, Quique’s main goal was to research the structural integrity of paintings. Given the absence of any useful information on the subject, he has determined that the best way to go about this research is to examine wood itself, for which there is data.

In the book Conservation and Exhibits, Hannah researched factors we must take into account regarding past and potential damage to paintings, which one of our main concerns in designing frames. She found a series of disaster scenarios resulting from negligence and human error, as well as the parameters of condition reports (damage, insecurity, and deformation), which should be on file for each piece and help us evaluate its individual needs.

We are all looking forward to going behind the scenes at the MFAH tomorrow!

2010 Mission Statement

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.

Preparation and the Engineering Design Process

Today’s team-building exercise involved making a pentagram out of a length of yarn. We had five minutes to plan how to “draw” the figure as a group, and the execution of our strategy had to take place in total silence. At first, the yarn wasn’t tied at the ends, so we just had to go through the motions of drawing the typical five-point star. Afterward, Dr. Wettergreen tied the yarn together so that we had to give the process more thought. Ting figured out how, starting from a triangle, we could cross the yarn of one side upon itself and pull it up to form a pentagram (which ended up being easier than our first task). Success!

A part of becoming familiar with the engineering design process involves understanding our project management. Throughout the project, we have several mentors inside and outside Rice. Within Rice, we have the support from Dr. Oden and Dr. Wettergreen, as well as the MFAH head conservator Wynne Phelan and the MFAH Head Registrar Julie Bakke. Dr. Wettergreen is our primary mentor, and will guide us along the process. In order to ensure a successful project, we have to set appropriate deadlines that give us ample time to finalize and perfect each component. Along with clear goals and deadlines, documentation plays an extremely important role. All the work we do must be documented in some form either in our binder, wiki or both. When working with paper, it’s important to use ink and to date and sign each page to secure the page’s integrity. This will allow us or anyone else to follow or process later, and reproduce it. Following this idea, we should never erase ideas that we decide to get rid of. It’s possible that they could prove useful later, or would merely illustrate how we reached our end result.

We had two lectures on the engineering design process. The first one was on the general design process, which is split into two parts: the design analysis and the solution stage. These two stages can be further broken down into five steps.

1a) defining and understanding the problem

1b) brainstorming solutions to the problem and picking the best ones

2) coming up with a design strategy and building our initial prototype based on 1b

3) testing and refining out prototype

4&5) analyze our work from start to finish, and write a final report

Our second lecture focused on the design analysis stage — specifically parts 1a and 1b. We brainstormed the main issues we will have to take into consideration as we come up with the design, and the driving criteria behind creating a new storage. We also discussed the importance of quantifying everything, so we have a basis for comparison and reproduction.

After lunch, we walked through the Museum of Fine Arts Houston to get an idea of the paintings we will be attempting to store in our new design solution. While the museum was filled with many traveling exhibitions, we were able to focus our attention to the modern and contemporary permanent collection works. We noted how the paintings differed in overall size, frame, and media, and we began to consider how these differences would translate into our travel frame design.

2010 Summer Internship – Call for Applications

An exciting fellowship is being offered in the summer of 2010 for Rice Undergraduates of any discipline. The program, The Engineering and Design for Art and Artifact Conservation Program, provides an opportunity to spend the summer working in a multi-disciplinary team applying the design process to a pressing problem in the art world. This program is a collaboration between the School of Engineering, the School of Humanities, the Center for Civic Engagement, Rice Center for Engineering Leadership, Rice Alliance and the Museum of Fine Arts – Houston.

Student will work closely with the Museum of Fine Arts to develop custom archival storage solutions for priceless antiquities and modern works of art.  The summer fellowship will include class instruction, collaborative and individual design work. Over the course of the summer, students will write and present a business plan and a research poster describing the work. Students will learn a problem solving design approach informed by the humanities and engineering, rapid prototyping, entrepreneurship, and online collaboration and archive methods.

Undergraduate students in any discipline or department are eligible and invited to apply. This is a full-time 9 week summer program commencing in June providing a $4,000 stipend and a designation as Fellow in the Center for Civic Engagements Summer Fellows Program and Rice Center for Engineering Leadership.

To apply for this internship, please email a resume, transcripts, the names of 2 references and a brief statement of why this internship is of interest to Applications are due May 1st. For more information, please contact

EDAAC Call for Summer Fellowship Applications

The Engineering and Design for Art and Artifact Conservation Program will be announcing their call for fellowship applications soon. Please check back to learn about 2010’s collaborative fellowship.
The Engineering and Design for Art and Artifact Conservation (EDAAC) program is a multi-disciplinary intensive summer program for Rice undergraduates in arts/humanities and engineering/sciences. Students work closely with the Museum of Fine Arts Houston to develop custom solutions for pressing problems in the art world, specifically the preservation and storage of priceless antiquities to pieces of modern art. This program demonstrates a curricular and mindset shift at Rice University and in the community, one that acknowledges the contributions that disparate fields can make in projects with shared goals. Fittingly, this program is a collaborative project from the School of Engineering, School of Humanities, the Center for Civic Engagement and Rice Alliance.

Recap of Thursday

After spending a restless night in our tent at the Chick-fil-A in Port Arthur, we took our 52 free meals and headed for home. Since we did not get back to the Rice campus until 8:00 AM, we decided to start work at ten o’clock to give us time to prepare for the intense day ahead. We arrived at the Design Kitchen feeling clean, renewed, and ready for anything.

Our fist task was to complete each Pugh Analysis for the four individual pieces that we started at the beginning of the week. This analysis consisted of numerically evaluating nearly 150 ideas, using evaluation criteria we created specifically to illuminate the strengths and weaknesses of each storage design. Once it was complete, we used the numerical valuation of each idea to narrow the available options down to a top ten for each piece.

After we finished the Pugh Analysis, we had to make haste and delegate tasks in order to meet the needs of the demanding day. Caleb revised and edited a powerpoint presentation for a meeting with Julie Bakke and Wynne Phelan of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Nicole and he had created the bulk of the presentation earlier in the week for the Center for Civic Engagement meeting, but the new version was tailored to give deeper insight into our process.

Rhodes had a very challenging task of finishing the financial projections portion of the business plan for the Innovation Norway Course. This document includes the assumptions we made that provided the basis for our financial projections. Some of categories include revenue, expenses, and earnings before interest and tax. Our financial projection section also included graphs of units sold per year and trends of the categories mentioned above.

While Rhodes and Caleb attended the weekly Innovation Norway class, Kristi and Nicole stayed at the Design Kitchen to push forward in the solution phase. Earlier, each person in the team picked two ideas they liked best, regardless of the Pugh Analysis, and start a new idea pot. Each person then added the two best designs from each top ten list to the pot. Nicole and Kristi took the new idea pot and explored the possibilities of each idea. They combined the best features of different ideas and created concepts with full functionality. Kristi masterfully drew pictures of each concept, seven in all.

With the powerpoint ready and the seven concepts drawn, it was time to meet with Chief Registrar, Julie Bakke and Director of Conservation, Wynne Phelan of MFAH. Rhodes and Caleb gave the presentation, and Nicole and Kristi discussed each design. We were very pleased at how well the designs were received by Julie and Wynne! We left at six o’clock with high hopes from their encouragement and enthusiasm of our ideas.

Chick-fil-A Opening

For a change of pace from our usual workweek, we attended a Chick-fil-A store grand opening this week in Port Arthur, Texas. The stores open on Thursday mornings at 6 am, and the first 100 people in line at that time receive free Chick-fil-A for a year in the form of 52 coupons for free meals, one for every week of the year. Chick-fil-A openings are becoming extremely popular, and the first 100 spots in line can be filled very close to the start time of 6 am.

To be on the safe side, and to avoid waking up really early in the morning to drive to Port Arthur, we decided to drive up on Tuesday night, and spend two nights under the stars. We arrived at the unopened Chick-fil-A at about 11 pm on Tuesday night, and there were already about 15 people in line ahead of us. We killed some time at Wal-Mart and bought some diversions to keep ourselves entertained as we awaited the opening, including a Trivial Pursuit game and a bouncy ball.

We awoke Wednesday morning to the heat, and the sound of a long line of people behind us trying to be in the first 100. When the Chick-fil-A officials arrived, we gave them our information, received our official wristbands, and agreed not to leave the premises until the actual opening time, or else we would be disqualified. The bathroom inside the store was continually available for our use, but hanging out inside the building is against the rules; everyone had to stay outside unless they are using the bathroom.

Throughout the day, we were fed Chick-fil-A meals, and sweet tea and water was always on hand. Most people had set up tents or sun shades, and some even had extension cords for fans, or a TV. People played cards, four square, and chased the shade around the building as time passed. During the high heat of the afternoon, the Chick-fil-A people set up a kiddie swimming pool, and even turned on the fire hydrant so that people could cool off. Other activities included a hula-hoop contest, and a DJ later in the evening. For dinner, we were all invited into the store and allowed to order anything off the menu, free of charge and subject to availability. During this time, the employees had the opportunity to practice excellent service, and were very attune to our needs as customers.

At nightfall, most of us slept outside instead of in the tent, because it was cooler. Unfortunately, we were also more exposed to the elements, and had to run back inside the tent when it started to rain at 3 am. Soon after that, we were all told to go inside the store due to lightning, and then to go back outside when the lightning stopped, so that they could prepare for the official opening.

News reporters had visited throughout the time, but were especially interested in filming the official opening. The Chick-fil-A cow was also onsite in the morning, to give high fives to the first 100 and add excitement to the sleepy mood. When it was time, we were all given a Chick-fil-A t-shirt, hat, and pen, and walked one by one into the store to receive our 52 coupon prize in a cardboard chicken nugget container with a red bow on it. We then took an early drive back to Houston, to start another day of focused work.