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Field Trip to the Conservation Lab at Raleigh’s Museum of Art

April 25th, 2011

Field Trip to the Conservation Lab at Raleigh’s Museum of Art

 Erin Burnette

On Friday April 15th, we traveled to Raleigh to have a personal tour of the Conservation Lab at the Museum of Art along with the Virginia Conservation Association.  The tour began in the loading bay that was especially built for largest art pieces to come in and out of the museum. The tour then went to the actual Conservation Lab itself. We came into a large open room with tables situated in the middle of the room and offices set up to the right. The tables, we learned, were specially made work tables that could be used as light tables. A member of the Conservation team, Bill Brown, showed us the current projects that were being conserved. The first painting was by Sir Peter Lely, a Dutch transplant to England. The painting was a portrait of Barbara Palmer, the Duchess of Cleveland. It was being cleaned and was half finished which can be seen in the pictures attached. The second painting was a Spanish religious scene from the 15th-16th centuries. This painting depicted Jesus with his disciples. An interesting fact that we found out from Bill Brown was that over the centuries, the owners of the painting had saw fit to clean the face of Jesus, so much so, that when fully cleaned by the conservation staff, no paint will be left on the face and restorative painting will have to be done to repair it. The faces of the other figures in the painting are in perfect condition because they were not revered like the figure of Jesus, and therefore not cleaned. A third painting being cleaned was an Italian Renaissance era portrait of an important man. The fourth painting being cleaned was in the style of Pieter Brueghel, a 15th century Flemish painter, and depicted a feast scene.

After looking at the paintings being cleaned, the rest of the tour was of the rest of the Conservation Lab. We were shown the framing studio, where a master framer reproduced and fixed the broken or scratched antique frames. We were also shown the x-ray room where the paintings are x-rayed to see the pencil lines of the artist and repaintings of some areas. From there, we left the Conservation Lab and took a massive elevator to the main museum gallery. We filed into the main gallery where Roman statues and Greek vases were displayed. There, we received a talk on the importance of lighting in the museum. The Raleigh Museum of Art has two sets of lighting called track one and two. Track one stays on for the whole day, while track two automatically comes on when the sensors depict low light or cloud cover. The museum also has special skylights that have shades built in. These shades are darker in the areas of the museum that house the more susceptible artifacts. The museum also uses curtains that are controlled by remote control to keep the light down in the galleries.

After the discussion on lights in the museum, we were free to look around the museum. The Museum had a collection of Egyptian artifacts, including a sarcophagus. They also had Greek and Roman collections. The Museum also had a large collection of paintings. Some of my favorite ones were by Monet, and one of Lucrezia de Medici in the Italian collection. I also liked the Rodin sculptures, especially The Kiss and The Thinker.

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 Conservator, Perry Hurt, describes some of the projects he has participated in.

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Painting undergoing restoration.

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Rodan sculpture on display.

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The paintings gallery in the new museum.

General Conservation

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