THE EXHIBITION OF UNLACQUERED SILVER AT THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART
ABSTRACT—The desire to inhibit the rate of tarnishing of silver objects has often led to their surfaces being coated with a lacquer or varnish; however, there are occasions when such a treatment would be inappropriate, either placing the object at risk physically or inhibiting the visual perception of its surfaces. Both concerns have been operative at the Metropolitan Museum of Art over the course of the last 25 years and have resulted in the implementation of several different approaches to the display of unlacquered silver. In each instance, these efforts were stimulated by the installation of different parts of the museum's collections, initially in the American Wing, followed by the Byzantine treasure from Attarouthi, and most recently, the medieval department's Early Christian and Byzantine silver. A common goal throughout has been to minimize the effects of gaseous pollutants on the silver by creating “clean” vitrines or storage cabinets, and then integrating into these spaces either passive or active systems to further reduce the levels of possible contaminants. The specifications for the vitrines and the techniques used for diminishing the gaseous pollutants evolved internally in conjunction with a growing body of research in preventive conservation focused on identifying both the harmful materials within exhibition and storage environments and the means by which a more benign environment might be achieved. A review of the decision-making which governed these various installations reveals a common approach which took into account a greater understanding of the dynamics of silver corrosion, and the introduction of new materials and methodologies with greater effectiveness in the adsorption of gaseous pollutants. The description of successes and failures in the implementation phase may benefit those faced with similar concerns in the exhibition of their collections.
2. THE ERA OF LACQUER
3. THE AMERICAN WING
4. THE ATTAROUTHI TREASURE
5. THE MARY AND MICHAEL JAHARIS GALLERY
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