Visiting the Smithsonian’s Lunder Conservation Center

The Lunder
The Lunder by sarahstierch, on Flickr

Many pieces within the the Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art have undergone conservation treatments throughout the years, but the ones that were treated by the Lunder Conservation Center, were done in front of the museum’s patrons. This state-of-the-art conservation lab and studio, housed in the museum’s fourth floor, gives visitors to the museum a unique perspective on the conservation treatment process. Patrons have the opportunity to see conservators at work in five different labs and studios behind floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Interactive kiosks and displays provide visitors with pertinent information about the process going on in front of them and the importance of museum conservation.

Conservation process on John Scott sculpture, Thornbush Blues Totem, photo courtesy of Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art

The Lunder conservators have been working on John Scott’s Thornbush Blues Totem, a sculpture constructed in 1990. In an effort to to prepare the piece for a new exhibition showcasing African-American art, the sculpture needed to have a layer of tape removed from its base. This layer of tape acts as padding for the bottom of the piece. The removal of the tape could result in paint being pulled along with it and sticky residues being left behind. However, the paint adorning the sculpture is highly sensitive to most solvents, including water. The conservation treatment of this sculpture is being documented as part of an on-going series for the museum’s blog, leading up to the April 27 opening of the African-American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond exhibit.

"Flowers" by William H. Johnson

The Lunder Conservation Center routinely informs visitors about what they’ll be doing inside their labs and studios via their Twitter feed. Through this medium, the conservators at Lunder also share photos of ongoing projects. Earlier this month, it was the cleaning treatment of William H. Johnson‘s iconic “Flowers” painting from 1939-40.

If you have art that requires a special conservation treatment,  University Products has a wide variety of conservation materials to help you complete your project.