A Conversation About Conservation
As most business owners do, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about all aspects of our company; where we are strong, where we need to improve and other areas that we should be exploring. During a recent period of contemplation I thought about our improvement in two areas: fine art and the environment. I remember when my family and I visited Italy several years ago and how fascinated I was with the brightness of the Sistine Chapel. I expected it to be dull, like so many of the pictures I'd seen in history books. The fact was that hundreds of trained conservators had taken on the task of completely redoing the entire Chapel to its’ original glory. For the uninitiated, a conservator is someone who is academically and professionally trained to not just restore art pieces but to bring them back to the original condition. The chemistry alone for knowing how to decipher the exact eggshell pigment from the 17th century and how to replicate it is beyond my ability to comprehend, which is why there are professional art conservators and there is everyone else. Two years ago we hired the Chief Conservator, Merv Richard, from the National Gallery of Art in D.C., to do a three day seminar on handling, crating, storing, and shipping fine art, antiques and sculptures for our staff. I remember some of the class work material was very technical and that was just for handling and crating of the art. We gained valuable insight into the “dos and don’ts” of fine art handling as well as knowledge of the real value of many items we are regularly entrusted with. While researching best conservation practices I found a great article in which Merv and two other well- known conservators were interviewed. It helped me appreciate how much Merv’s knowledge is revered around the world. The other area of interest to our company for the past 5 years has been on protecting our environment. We have made a number of company decisions which directly impact the environment. For example; our vehicles emit very little exhaust (CO2s) and we reuse and/or recycle over 350,000 pounds of cardboard per year. Earlier this year we worked with Urban Solar and installed a 136KW solar system that generates all of the electricity for our entire administrative and warehousing facility. As of this post, our installation is the largest commercial solar installation in Southwest Florida. Just as it was important for me to research and find a top professional to help our company understand the importance of fine art conservation, it was important to meet with an authority on solar power. As it turned out, one of our clients is the founder of what was at one point the largest solar company in the country, Standard Solar Company. Neville Williams was on the U.S. Alternative Energy Commission when it was founded some 30 years ago, has been an advocate for solar energy even when it wasn't practical and is an active author with numerous books to his credit. In just the past five years the technology and pricing have changed by 100 fold and it is now economical and efficient. Conserving our resources by recycling and using solar power ultimately makes an impact on our environment. In just 7 months it is estimated that our facility's solar system has prevented over 120,000 pounds of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere. This also represents almost 8,000 gallons of fuel (or natural gas equivalent) of not being drilled, refined and shipped to an electric power plant. Preserving what we have, both in the art world and in our environment should be a priority to all of us. Without the vision of leaders such as Merv Richard and Neville Williams, who help to set the standards by which we measure conservation, we might not have the opportunity to enjoy our treasures from the past or the beauty of our environment.
Posted by Jim Henderson