Monday, December 13, 2010

the conservation of artworks


      During week five of my Art at The Museum course, our class toured the conservation facilities of the St. Louis Art Museum. We listened to an expert in this field, Laura Gorman, discuss her methods and philosophy in artifact restoration. According to Gorman, museums decide to restore objects so that visitors may develop a superior visual comprehension of how artworks and objects looked and functioned when these were first made. 
      Ms. Gorman does not permanently alter the objects; every bit of paint and filler can be removed easily if curators should prefer to do so. Her work is really quite delicate and extraordinary. She matches colors perfectly. The students could not seriously discern between her work and the original fragments of the restored pottery she was working with. The restored object she had just completed, an incense burner, was a part of the Meso-American collection on display at the museum right now. 
      The museum also has lesson plan packets for sale. One of these is about museum conservation and restoration. I have not been able to locate it in their online shop. Teachers probably need to call instead to special order these materials from the museum. (314-721-0072)
      The video above is of a similar facility located in DC.. Including a unit lesson plan in your art classroom about museum conservation prior to a field trip to an art museum is a great idea. Curriculum such as this would help students to appreciate the collections they will view and develop a greater understanding of why collections are preserved and displayed in the first place.