Teen Screens—Deep Underground: The Secret Life of Art

Pete Dandridge describes an exquisite work of Byzantine art and his role as a conservator at the Museum. This film was created in conjunction with the exhibition Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, on view at the Museum from March 14 to July 8, 2012.

Narrator: In one of the most secure locations in New York City, deep underground where no other film crew has ever been before, our group uncovers the secrets beneath The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Pete Dandridge: I don't think we ever feel as if we've reached a point of complete understanding about these objects; you know there's always something else that we're going to be able to do. As it works out, I might have a whole day that I might be just working, treating an object. I might have a whole day where I might just be examining an object—documenting its condition, looking at it, looking at x-radiographs, looking at it under the microscope. When you then look at the object itself, obviously the areas that are most opaque and most thick are those areas of highest relief. How did they achieve that? Well obviously they raised some of those areas from the reverse without punching from the back…does not explain the variation in thickness.

Narrator: The David Plates are arguably some of the most important pieces in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is rare for them to be taken out of their glass case, but on this rare occasion Conservator Pete Dandridge has taken them out in preparation for the Byzantine exhibit.

Pete Dandridge: This is a collection of six different silver pieces with an extraordinary embossed decoration. It's almost carving in relief. They represent what is the finest goldsmith silversmithing work of the period. And so if you're trying to give a sense of what a particular culture was capable of doing at a particular time, these really represent what they could do at their best, and represent sort of the pinnacle of what an artistic achievement would be in that period. Our responsibilities really fall to the preservation of the collections and to their study. I became a conservator beginning probably about almost thirty-five years ago. The attraction for me has always been the art, and so to be able to spend my day in a very intimate conversation with the art is really that thing that is the most exciting.

Narrator: Now that you know about the secrets beneath the exhibits, come and unfold the mysteries of the past through art at the Museum.

Directed, shot, and edited by DeAndre Brye, Alice Cai, Jamilah Cayenns, and Ana Zinn as part of the 2011 Art and Film summer workshop for teens at the Museum.

This film was a collaboration between The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Film Academy.

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