University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
conservation department Gallery cleaning at the Penn Museum..

For every exhibition, Conservators work closely with the Curators and the Exhibitions Department to ensure that the objects selected will be displayed to their best advantage. This work begins long before the exhibition opens with reviewing all the objects that the Curators have selected, ensuring that they can be displayed safely, setting guidelines on light intensity and duration, and giving input on possible mounting issues. As exhibition preparation continues, the Conservators are consulted on case materials and specifications and review all mount designs to ensure they provide the proper support without placing stress on any part of the object. Of course, the greatest effort goes into the treatment of the objects. Each object slated for exhibition comes into the lab for documentation and whatever treatment is necessary to stabilize it and to show it at its best. Frequently the Conservators consult the Curators for information on how an object should look or be presented.

A demolition and construction project occurring very close to the Museum which started last year had the potential to cause problems for many of our artifacts both on exhibition and in storage. Working closely with the Exhibitions Department, the Registrars’ Office, the Building Operations Staff, and outside specialists, we began to assess possible impacts on our collections and to take measures to prevent damage. Some of our most vulnerable monumental objects on exhibition have had to be deinstalled for their protection.

Our highly successful open conservation lab (formerly ‘In the Artifact Lab: Conserving Egyptian Mummies) has been renamed to reflect its new, wider focus. We continue to learn a lot (Number 1 question asked by visitors: “Is it real?”). Even though the objects being treated in the Artifact Lab have all been in our collections for many decades, the potential for new discoveries (or re-discoveries) has been amazing. As plans for the reinstallation of the Museum’s signature galleries progress, we will be focusing on treatment of those objects and the Artifact Lab will be an ideal space to treat many of the larger pieces. You can read about these projects, as well as other fascinating topics on our blog.

Objects being prepared to go on exhibition get conserved, but they also need care while on exhibition. Each Monday, when the Museum is closed to the public, our Conservation Technicians, together with staff from the Exhibition Preparations Department, and the relevant Curatorial Section, work in the Galleries.

The stone reliefs depicting two of the favorite horses of Emperor Taizong (r. 626-649 CE) are among the Museum’s greatest treasures. Examinations conducted in 2008 showed that the mending, done sometime shortly after the reliefs arrived at the Museum in 1918, was no longer stable.

All of the objects in the Painted Metaphors exhibition were examined by the Museum's conservators, and given any treatment necessary to render them stable for exhibition and travel.

Collections care and conservation work at the Penn Museum is ongoing and overseen by the Museum’s Conservation Department. As resources become available, the conditions in which our collections are kept are continually upgraded.

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