Conservation Tools – Fume Extraction

Conservators use a lot of different tools and equipment when treating objects and artwork in the lab.  This quarter’s blog posts from the Ford Center have been about different tools and how we use them.


Objects Lab

A view of the Objects Lab at the Ford Conservation Center.  The gray tubes hanging from the ceiling are fume extractors.


Almost every new visitor that comes into the Objects Labs, looks up and asks “What are those?” It’s not an unusual work of art that intrigues them. It’s the six grey tubes hanging from the ceiling like oversized elephant trunks. What are they? Those are fume extractors. They create an airflow, drawing harmful solvent fumes away from the conservators working in the lab. 

Safety comes first in the conservation labs, especially the Objects Lab where various organic solvents and other potentially dangerous chemicals are used more often than in the Paintings or Paper Labs. 


Removing Old Coating

The blue tubes are larger extractors that can be moved in close for larger solvent projects.  Here, conservation technician, Megan Griffiths, is removing old coatings from metal artifacts.


When at conservator or technician is working at one of the tables, and using a small amount of solvent, the fume extractors draw away the fumes so that they don’t bother the conservator or others in the lab.


Lab with Vent Scoop

The metal scoop at the end of the tube allows for a greater amount of air to be moved away from the conservator’s work station.


A scoop attached at the end of the tube increases the surface area of the air to be extracted.  If a larger quantity of solvent is needed, the conservator wears a respirator and may have to use the fume hood to extract more air.


GRFCC Spray Booth

Senior Conservation Technician, Vonnda Shaw, uses the spray booth to apply a lacquer coating to an archeological metal object.


The Ford Center also has a spray booth that can be used to large scale projects.  The back wall is one large air extractor, so large tanks of solvent can be utilized and varnishes and coatings can be sprayed safely. 

We hope you have enjoyed this quarter’s look into the labs at the Ford Center and the tools we use every day to preserve and protect the cultural materials in Nebraska and beyond.

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