CAN THE COMPLEX BE MADE SIMPLE? INFORMING THE PUBLIC ABOUT CONSERVATION THROUGH MUSEUM EXHIBITS
JERRY C. PODANY, & SUSAN LANSING MAISH
2 EXHIBIT INTRODUCTION
The introductory section described, in general terms, the profession of conservation. It immediately set the tone and gave the visitor a good foundation for understanding the rest of the exhibition. Ethical considerations and challenges regularly faced by working conservators were described, and an overview of the rest of the installation was given.
The most effective component of this section, indeed of the entire exhibition, was a six-minute “behind-the-scenes” video filmed by the Audiovisual Department over a period of one year. The museum's antiquities conservators, mount maker, and interns were shown working on various projects, including the gap filling, inpainting, and mechanical cleaning of stone, bronze, and ceramic objects. Scenes of a seismic isolation mechanism being tested on a shake table at a commercial engineering firm were also featured. The video showed the apparatus, which is now used in the antiquities galleries, being run through a series of tests using a cement facsimile of a monumental fifth-century Greek statue. The tests approximated the movements of a powerful earthquake of the kind likely to hit southern California. To meet the needs of our Spanish-speaking visitors—a large and significant population in California—we provided a Spanish-language version of the video script. Judging from visitor responses to a survey we later conducted, the video, more than any other aspect of the exhibition, was quite successful in attracting and holding visitors' attention, giving them a glimpse of a facet of museum work that they might never see.