Where Is Everybody? Behind-the-Scenes in the Lunder Conservation Center

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One of the questions we hear most often from visitors to the Lunder Conservation Center is "where are the conservators?"

Most people imagine an art conservator actively handling and treating objects in the lab, or "doing bench work," as we like to say. This is certainly an important part of conservation, but there are other crucial aspects to the job. One part of a conservator's role, typically taking place behind-the-scenes, is creating narrative and photographic documentation of every aspect of an artwork before and after (and sometimes even during!) treatment. Meticulous records are essential to preservation, as understanding and capturing the changing condition of a piece allows us to understand the object's full history.

Above you can see our Smithsonian Museum Conservation Fellow, Sophie Barbisan, carefully arranging an artwork CHITTEE-YOHOLO. A SEMINOLE CHIEF., from History of the Indian Tribes of North America, a color target, and labels indicating this photographic record was taken before treatment. You can learn more about photographic documentation from the Winterthur Museum.

During your next visit to SAAM, come visit us at Lunder. Our main entrance is on the 3rd floor mezzanine, next to our Luce Foundation Center.