Behind the Scenes at the Milwaukee Art Museum

As part of the AIC 2010 Annual Meeting, Chief Conservator Jim De Young took members of AIC on a tour of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Conservation Lab and exhibit galleries. Seventy-five percent of the museum’s collections are works of art on paper.

The Conservation Lab was retrofitted in a former storage space beneath the museum’s galleries, a challenging project, because the changes could not visually alter the building’s design by architect Santiago Calatrava.  The lab’s current staff includes one paper conservator, two paper technicians, one framer, and one objects conservator, with a paintings conservator position to be added within the new few years.

One of the conservation challenges the museum staff has faced includes the transportation and installation of the delicate, brittle, fiberglass sculpture Right After (1969) by artist Eva Hesse, which had to be transported by truck across the Sierra Nevada mountains.  The sculpture comes apart into three pieces, and was hung from frames with their own suspension systems in the back of the truck.

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