The Conservation Center’s spacious, natural-light filled 28,000 sq ft laboratory is not an ordinary office. One won’t hear phones ringing or the incessant clicking of keyboards. In fact, oftentimes you would be lucky to hear conversation amongst the conservators beyond a few hushed whispers. At first glance, our conservation laboratory might resemble a Benedictine monastery. However, upon closer examination, you notice those tiny white earbuds are a common denominator.
“Everyone has a particular method of concentration while working here, and the one thing the conservators have in common is that we all listen to music or Podcasts while we work,” said Amber Smith, The Center’s Senior Paintings Conservator. "When I plug in my headphones at work, everyone knows I'm trying to focus," said Toby Joyce, The Center's Director of Conservation Framing. "My taste in music leans towards classic rock, with more than three-fourths of my playlist consisting of live concert material. The sound of a live audience cheering on a band really motivates me throughout the day." This got us thinking: what are the scientific benefits of listening to music in the workplace?
In biological terms, according to Dr. Amit Sood, a physician of integrative medicine with the Mayo Clinic, melodious sounds encourage the release of dopamine in the “reward” area of the brain, promoting both focus and creativity. Focus and creativity are two attributes our conservators possess in spades. Compounding the benefits of music is Teresa Lesiuk, an associate professor of music therapy at the University of Miami, whose research found that those who listen to music while working completed their tasks more quickly and came up with more ideas than those who did not—put another way, music promotes better problem solving skills. With hundreds of artworks and heirloom pieces coming through The Center every month, our conservators frequently come up with innovative conservation solutions when treating certain works.
“Collaboration is key when it comes to interdisciplinarity conservation,” said Stephen Ryan, Senior Furniture and Objects Conservator. “Sometimes we see an object that contains different components—paper and wood, for example, and I would work with Brian, who’s an expert in paper conservation, to find the best solution.”
If music has the power to make us think more “outside the box,” this leads us to wonder what our conservators—who are as varied a group of people as the art they conserve—listen to on a daily basis. Here’s a survey of some of our greatest hits and summer favorites.
TV on the Radio
Father John Misty
His Name Is Alive
The Budos Band
The Cure: "Friday I'm in Love"
Siouxsie and the Banshees: "Kiss Them for Me"
Portishead: "Glory Box"
Explosions in the Sky
Spoon: "I Turn My Camera On"
Modest Mouse: “Float On”
The White Stripes: “Fell In Love with a Girl”
The Mountain Goats
The Black Keys: “I'll Be Your Man”
Weezer: “Buddy Holly”
The Strokes: "Last Night"
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: “Down Boy”
Arcade Fire: "Reflektor"
Kings of Leon
The Pretenders: "Back on the Chain Gang"
The Flaming Lips: “Do You Realize”
The Beatles: “Revolution”
The Everly Brothers
The Rolling Stones: “Beast of Burden”
Tom Waits: “Jockey Full of Bourbon”
The Who: “Behind Blue Eyes”
Johnny Cash: “Solitary Man”
Bob Marley" "One Love"
Lou Reed: "Walk on the Wild Side"
Jerry Garcia Band
Sam Cooke: "A Change Is Gonna Come"
John Lee Hooker: "Boom Boom Boom"
Miles Davis: "So What"
The Avett Brothers
Derek & the Dominios
Iggy Pop: "The Passenger"
Rage Against the Machine: “Renegades of Funk”
Alice in Chains
Buena Vista Social Club
El Guincho: “Pop Negro”
"Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!"
"Tiny Desk Concerts"
* In case you missed it, The Conservation Center had brushes with fame recently when we treated works related to legendary musicians Mick Jagger and Frank Zappa.
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