With many different departments working together here at The Conservation Center, we understand the value of teamwork. On certain occasions, this means working hand in hand with other companies and specialists to develop the correct treatment approach for a unique piece. When we received a call regarding a large public sculpture at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden that had been struck by a car, we knew right away that engaging some of our trusted vendors to assist our team with the repairs may be necessary.
In the wake of disastrous floods that swept through Louisiana, our expertly trained team of art handlers and conservators have once again come to the rescue of an influx of more than 1,600 artworks in desperate need of restoration. As a disaster response resource for art and heirlooms, The Center has responded to countless emergency situations in the past 33 years that require decisive action and expert judgment. The Center has perfected emergency response tactics for a variety of unique situations.
On November 13th, I gave a presentation on disaster preparedness at the Association of Registrars and Collection Specialists (ARCS) conference in New Orleans. The audience included nearly 700 museum registrars, collection managers, conservators, consultants, appraisers, and art shippers.
In honor of Pesach (Passover) earlier this month, we’re highlighting a major conservation treatment for Temple Emanuel, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Conservation Center’s team worked tirelessly on-site and in our laboratories to help restore a massive 1,000 square-foot mural that covered the entire expanse of the rear wall of the synagogue. Painted on multiple lightweight wood panels by the Swiss-born American artist Lucienne Bloch (1909–1999), this modern mural stands as a testament to a dynamic time in religious architecture that aimed to keep up with societal trends in art and construction.
After more than three decades of preserving fine art and heirlooms at The Conservation Center, we now have an impressive answer to one of the most the frequently asked questions by our clients and visitors: “What is the oldest piece that The Center has ever conserved?” Recently, a 10th century Greek Codex—which contains portions of the New Testament Gospels of Luke and John—arrived at our conservation lab, and we, admittedly, are truly impressed. This rare book belongs to Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, a Bible-based university supported by Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Traditional Chinese culture places strong emphasis on happiness and good fortune. The character 福, which is pronounced “Fú,” is frequently associated with Chinese New Year and can be seen mounted on the entrances of many Chinese households worldwide. However, luck wasn’t on Mary Ellen Hall’s side when disaster struck her house last spring—which damaged many of her cherished belongings, including a bronze “Foo Dog” she had acquired through an antiques dealer. Fortunately, The Conservation Center was able to save this family treasure.
The Conservation Center is pleased to announce that it will be the official conservator for a treasured, but almost forgotten, 1940s-era mural by artist Santos Zingale. The momentous, three-panel oil on canvas that depicts the arrival of Racine’s founder, Gilbert Knapp, was recently discovered after a fire disaster that occurred at Mitchell Elementary School in Racine, Wisconsin. Measuring about 12 feet by about 43 feet, The Landing of Captain Knapp at Racinewas originally on view in a multipurpose library room at Mitchell. Due to a 1950s modernization effort, the mural ended up in the school’s basement—until disaster relief workers found the piece nearly six decades later. The Center is expecting to spend more than 9–12 months on this project.
Blue skies and warmer temperatures had giddy Midwesterners basking in sunshine lately after one of the cruelest winters in recent memory. But spring has also brought stormy weather to the Chicago area, and mother nature unleashed a different kind of misery on local residents: flooding. Many Midwestern cities, including Chicago, have been on guard for excess water that lead to issues such as clogged storm drains. The Conservation Center's Disaster Response team is once again on the ground, reacting to many emergency incidents that have affected personal collections. On a recent triage, more than 15 Conservation Center staff members collaborated to save hundreds of family heirlooms from water damage.
Last month, The Conservation Center spent a lovely Saturday afternoon with more than 40 members of the Freeport Art Museum (FAM)—a jewel of a collection located in Freeport, Illinois, right outside of Rockford. Together with Roberta Kramer, a Chicago-based art appraiser, we made a special presentation that marked the end of a two-year project, which, while not beginning under the most auspicious of circumstances, concluded with cause for celebration. Many key pieces of art from FAM’s collection were properly appraised and saved from water damage that occurred in its 2D storage unit.
With 34 days of measurable snow and a record number of sub-zero temperatures, winter has been unbearably harsh this year in the Midwest. Glacial conditions have set the stage for broken pipes, floods, and fires. Consequently, The Conservation Center's stellar Shipping and Installation team has endured a hectic and demanding schedule lately providing disaster relief services. With winter finally slowing down and spring (hopefully) approaching, we caught up with Paul Kirk, The Center's Director of Transportation and Operations, in which he shared his team's experiences, challenges, and accomplishments during the past few months.