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Subject: Conservation facilities and the public

Conservation facilities and the public

From: Tiarna Doherty <dohertyt<-at->
Date: Friday, February 24, 2012
On behalf of the conservators working at the Lunder Conservation
Center I would like to share a few observations related to the
discussion re: conservation facilities and the public.

The Lunder Conservation Center was opened in 2006.


The Lunder Conservation Center has full-length glass walls so we are
rarely interrupted by direct visitor interaction during treatments.
Outside of the walls there are interactive computer kiosks that help
explain the type of work that goes on in a conservation studio. The
conservation department is on the upper floors of the Smithsonian
American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery (we share the
building and the conservation facility).  It is not between gallery
spaces, but rather in a corner, removed from the heaviest museum
traffic.  The reality is that only a fraction of our museum visitors
come through to the conservation center.

Our center originally had a full-time staff member to help with
tours and public outreach. In the past our Program Coordinator would
run the public tours, which are led in the hallway space where glass
walls separate the labs or studios from the hallway. This meant that
an additional conservation-savvy employee was able to address
questions and help interpret the space and activities.  The position
of Program Coordinator is currently vacant and will be advertised
soon.  We welcome hearing from anyone interested.  The position will
be expanded slightly to help with organizing workshops and lectures
and increasing public outreach through social media.  Currently,
there is a weekly public tour, and we have incorporated the use of
an iPad into these tours to highlight images from current

One of the challenges we face is the comment that no conservators
were seen working on an object. To address this, we are developing
signage which better presents the various aspects of museum
conservation work, including working off site and in storage,
monitoring the condition or works of art on view, addressing
environmental issues in the galleries and buildings, helping with
the installation and packing of objects, carrying out documentation
in photography studios, and attending meetings.

We have enjoyed reading the contributions to this discussion.  We
are presently re-thinking how we want to improve upon our public
outreach which includes tours, didactic information on kiosks and
printed materials, and our website. The recent conference "Playing
to the galleries and engaging new audiences: the public face of
conservation" held in November 2011 at Colonial Williamsburg was an
excellent opportunity to share ideas and we look forward to this
year's AIC meeting on the theme of "Connecting to Conservation:
Outreach and Advocacy".

Tiarna Doherty
Chief of Conservation
Lunder Conservation Center
Smithsonian American Art Museum

                  Conservation DistList Instance 25:40
                  Distributed: Saturday, March 3, 2012
                       Message Id: cdl-25-40-005
Received on Friday, 24 February, 2012

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