Behind the Scenes at the Lunder Conservation Center

  • The Lunder Conservation Center is a fully visible lab showing you how the Smithsonian American Art Museum conservators preserve our cultural artifacts.


    NARRATOR: Museums can be places of wonder, of discovery, of conversation. But have you ever thought about what goes on beyond the gallery walls? The Lunder Conservation Center preserves our cultural artifacts, so they can be appreciated by visitors today and far into the future.

    STEPHANIE STEBICH: What can you expect at the Lunder Conservation Center? A chance to peek into the world of laboratories devoted to framing, and objects, works on paper, paintings, and time-based media such as video. One of the delights of coming to the Lunder Conservation Center is seeing the wide breadth of objects that may be in the laboratories. Always something astonishing, and a reminder of the great variety of objects that we have in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. We have a sacred trust in caring for these collections, and that’s why the Lunder Conservation Center is critical to all we do here at the museum.

    NARRATOR: Caring for these precious works of art takes a diverse set of skills.

    AMBER KERR: Conservation is like a three-legged stool. We draw upon the disciplines of science, art history, and the studio arts. Conservators are often compared to doctors in the medical field. We look at each of our patients differently. We figure out what that particular patient needs.

    NARRATOR: And sometimes, they are surprised at what they find.

    AK: One of the coolest parts of my job is getting so close to artwork. I mean, I’ve seen artists’ fingerprints, and subtle little changes that you don’t often get to see when you just walk by a painting in the gallery.

    NARRATOR: As the first permanent visible art conservation space in a museum, the Lunder Conservation Center is a leader in the field of conservation and education.

    AK: One of the critical missions of the Lunder Conservation Center is our outreach and advocacy with the public. Raising awareness to the importance of caring for cultural heritage. Our public gets to walk down the corridors of our center, look through the glass walls and observe the conservators working. And you learn the story behind the artwork itself.

    NARRATOR: And you can be a part of it. Join us at our labs, on a tour, or workshop, and online. The secret world of conservation is waiting for you.
    Media Series