Essay about The Magic of the Conservator: Ensuring Art Does Not Disappear

Essay about The Magic of the Conservator: Ensuring Art Does Not Disappear

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The Magic of the Conservator – Ensuring Art Does Not Disappear

As with many advances in industry and technology, we can thank war for increasing the interest in research for art conservation. After the Great War, the British Museum unpacked its collections after wartime storage in the Underground railway tunnels. Many items had unexpectedly deteriorated in a relatively short time; iron had rusted, bronze developed green corrosion, pottery and stone objects were covered in growth of salt crystals. The museum then decided to set up a permanent scientific research laboratory to further its understanding of the causes of deterioration of materials and learning methods of treating its effects. Conservation of art is now a full-time academic pursuit with Master’s programs at many universities in the United States with the intent to study, prevent, maintain, and restore cultural work.

During the Renaissance as private collectors of curiosities and eventually public collections of art were established, the demand for restoration increased and the conservation profession was introduced. Craftsmen used traditional materials to repair objects. Currently, scientific techniques such as radiography and UV examination and the development of synthetic materials have given the conservator better ways of studying and repairing traditional fine arts.

In the twentieth century, many artists worked with non-archival materials. Acrylic house paint, enamel paint, latex, and fiber glass are just a few of the synthetic and semi-synthetic polymeric materials that became common because of their immediacy, availability, and seductive qualities. Works by artists such as Jackson Pollock, Eva Hesse, and Anselm Kiefer have created complex pr...


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...mon Cough Drops”, September 2002, 5/22/11, http://www.artnews.com/issues/article.asp?art_id=1183.
• Keats, Jonathon, “The Afterlife of Eva Hesse”, April 2011, 5/22/11, http://www.artandantiquesmag.com/2011/04/the-afterlife-of-eva-hesse/.
• Lauritzen, Peter, Venice Preserved (Bethesda, MD, Adler & Adler, Publishers, Inc., 1986)
• Mason, Christopher, “Ephemeral Art, Eternal Maintenance”, November 2005, 5/21/11, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/10/garden/10art.html?pagewanted=2.
• Oddy, Andrew (Editor), The Art of the Conservator (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992)
• Pemberton, Andrew, “Art mishaps with masterpieces”, February 2010, 5/24/11, http://www.museum-security.org/?p=3557.
• Shelley, Marjorie, The Care and Handling of Art Objects (New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987)
• http://www.conservation-wiki.com/index.php?title=Main_Page

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