The Curator’s View: Care and Conservation of Art

This post is from the desk of Linda Jansma, Senior Curator.

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery is a member of the Canadian Museum Association and adheres to their ethical guidelines. Those guidelines include the following paragraph about collections:

Museum collections consist of natural or cultural (i.e. manmade) objects and intellectual property directly owned by the museum, as a public trust, and registered as part of its permanent collection, to be used for the exclusive purposes of preservation, research and presentation to the public.

This week, I read a plain language version of this guideline that came through the American Association of Museums. It reads:

Know what stuff you have
Know what stuff you need
Know where it is
Take good care of it
Make sure someone gets some good out of it. Especially people you care about. And your neighbors.

Well, the RMG has a lot of stuff it has to take care of and part of that care is conservation. Recently, two works from the collection were returned from a conservator that we regularly use: Across the Fields, Newtonbrook by Frederick Brigden and Nature Morte by Jeanne Rheaume. Both treatment reports include a lot of conservation jargon, for example:  “weave distortion,” “drip mark,” “consolidated scratch.” Suffice it to say, the paintings were really dirty and certainly did not look like they did when they left the artist’s studios in 1935 (Brigden) and 1961 (Rheaume).

Image

Before conservation

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After Conservation

Above: Nature Morte by Jeanne Rheaume, 1961

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Before

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After

Above:  Across the Fields, Newtonbrook by Frederick Henry Brigden c. 1935

The above photos give you an idea of the miracles of ammonium cirtrate (pH 7.8), EDTA/Troton, XL/Benzyl alcohol and citric acid/Brij. (Ah, if only there was a plain language version of conservation reports!)

Look for the Brigden painting currently hanging in our Permanent Collection gallery, and look forward to seeing the Rheaume to come out of the vault in 2013.

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