Objects conservators provide for the conservation of three-dimensional works of art in the Museum's collections. Staff members also provide conservation support on a number of archaeological excavations, including those sponsored by the Museum, as well as on other international projects.
Posted: Friday, January 23, 2015
This beautiful image of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara holds a lotus as his principal attribute (fig. 1). On view in the exhibition Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas, the gilded figure and its lotus-inspired pedestal are made of a single block of sandalwood, a wood species that holds spiritual meaning throughout Asia. The exceptional carving found here is a rare surviving example of a Nepalese tradition with a long history, one which ultimately can be traced back to India.
Posted: Friday, January 16, 2015
A gift to the Museum in 1949, this image of Vajrabhairava was not placed on display for many years (fig. 1). In conjunction with the work's display in the Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas exhibition, however, the Departments of Objects Conservation and Scientific Research examined this figure in order to shed light on the materials and the production technique of this unusual representation.
Posted: Thursday, November 20, 2014
Every curator, at one point or another, has to grapple with questions of provenance. In the case of medieval stone sculpture, works often come to us in fragmentary states, roughly removed from their original sites during revolutionary events, or cautiously salvaged from monuments that have not been cared for over time. Conservators, scientists, and art historians often collaborate to solve questions of geographic origin and attribution.
Posted: Monday, November 10, 2014
What happens when gaming students are let loose on the Met's collection? We found our answer to this question this past spring when staff from the Sherman Fairchild Center for Objects Conservation collaborated with a group of intrepid and creative students at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). The students were supervised by their professor, Elizabeth Goins, in a course titled "Interactive Design for Museums," part of RIT's Museum Games & Technology Initiative. The students were tasked with communicating the inside information conservators gather from studying the materials and techniques of works of art through a fun and engaging game aimed at general audiences.
Posted: Wednesday, October 1, 2014
The Sherman Fairchild Center for Book Conservation in Watson Library recently hosted a hands-on workshop taught by Sarah Reidell—conservator of rare books, paper, and parchment at the New York Public Library's Barbara Goldsmith Conservation Laboratory—entitled "Pre-Coated Repair Materials." This intermediate-level program was developed for conservators and advanced technicians with a thorough knowledge of common repair techniques for paper and parchment conservation. The workshop included training in the preparation of toned and untoned water-, solvent-, and heat-reactivated, pre-coated repair materials used for the conservation and stabilization of book and paper artifacts. During the workshop, participants had the opportunity to experiment on sample materials and to create comparative sample sets for future reference.
Posted: Friday, August 22, 2014
To clean or not to clean? That is the question.
The decision whether to clean a work of art is a difficult one for art conservators, as doing so is an irreversible action. Art that has withstood the vicissitudes of time comes to us with surfaces that show their age. While superficial layers may appear dirty, cleaning them sometimes removes information that is relevant to the history of the object. Thus, prior to making any treatment decision, conservators thoroughly study and analyze all aspects of a work of art.
Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Understanding an art object requires close observation and an interdisciplinary course of investigation that integrates the work of curators and conservators, the arts and the sciences. This work, however, is often done behind a curtain (so to speak), and visitors rarely have the opportunity to gain insight into the process. On August 4, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will unveil the secret world of curators and conservators with its latest installation in Gallery 599, Examining Opulence: A Set of Renaissance Tapestry Cushions. This one-room exhibition will give visitors a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the fascinating and indispensable questions Museum curators and conservators pose as they investigate six luxurious, late Renaissance tapestry-woven cushion covers depicting scenes from the lives of biblical figureheads Abraham and Isaac.
Posted: Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Many #tapestrytuesday readers have asked why some tapestries in the Met's collection have such diverse color palettes. As it turns out, the question you should be asking isn't "Why?" but "Dye?" Understanding the preservation or degradation of a tapestry's color is a complex sort of query whose answer is largely influenced by the dyes used to color its threads. To help unravel the mystery of tapestry colors, I recently sat down for a fascinating lesson in dyeing with two of the Museum's tapestry experts: Cristina Carr, conservator in the Department of Textile Conservation; and Nobuko Shibayama, associate research scientist in the Department of Scientific Research.
Posted: Tuesday, May 20, 2014
One of the recent musical instruments conserved at the Met is a twentieth-century Afghani rubāb, a short-necked lute known as the national instrument of Afghanistan. A plucked instrument, the rubāb is used in art, popular, and regional music, both as a solo instrument and as part of small musical ensembles. Prior to being displayed in The André Mertens Galleries for Musical Instruments, this object needed treatment due to losses of inlay from the fingerboard and pegbox. Additionally, this presented a good opportunity to evaluate the condition of the rawhide resonator, as this material can become more brittle over time.
Posted: Thursday, May 15, 2014
Conservation treatments are not often performed on works of art in public. The process is lengthy and requires extreme concentration, and treatments usually need to be performed in fully equipped laboratories. The sight of a work in the process of being conserved might also come as a shock to passersby; seeing a work of art in its "stripped" state—where all fills and old restorations have been removed—is like seeing a celebrity un-Photoshopped or without makeup.