Quote Originally Posted by Robert Kennedy
That said, they do pull stuff from public view. They just pulled all their Arbus prints because of concerns regarding conservation. And since conservation is insanely pricey, you have to be careful. They spent something like $25,000US to have a conservator come in, examine all their Edward Weston prints, digitize them (just in case), and then they could only preserve THREE....yes, THREE prints!

So I can see why keeping stuff inthe nice humidity controlled room in the back can be tempting....

At the same time, museums are about showing the public things.
No kidding--the early stages of this flag project cost about twice that--to get estimates. There's one flag alone that costs a bit more than 50K to conserve. It's basically a box of carefully housed scraps of fabric now. The conservation work is akin to actually painstakingly reconstructing the flag based off original documentation and detective work for lack of a better word. We had a textile conservator on staff (we have a furniture conservator and 2 labs--textiles and furniture. The textiles conservator position is vacant now...)--at any rate. What they would do is to stitch by stitch rework this piece to a stretcher of crepaline (forgive my spelling)--it would take hundreds of hours to do one item.

We're working on the propsoal of a potential exhibit that would be open to the public to show a conservation project in the workings--these 6x10 foot paintings on fabric rolls--they call them "panoramas"--they're very thin fabric with painted Biblical scenes from a depression era traveling tent show. They were donated to the museum last year and have been stored in an outbuilding and an attic for decades...there are about 120 or so, and only 2 panels have been unrolled in the past 60-70 yrs. Right now, they're fragile--still rolled up.

They had a conservator advise them in addition to checking around with similar projects at other museums. The textiles can be only unrolled at a 20 degree angle--so basically they must work flat. They plan on building a scaffold about 15 feet above--for us to shoot down with a 4x5 camera (plus 6 speedo heads, and 3 packs). The whole rig is wired up for an AV component and the project will be on display for 12-15 months.

Then comes the conservation-- they will construct a cradle of sorts to unroll and support these (6 total) and work from one edge as they unroll at a time--underneath this scaffolding. All they'll do is to *clean* and record each panel--and do a condition report more or less. Then, when all is said and done--they'll have to make decisions about whether to treat the whole thing or parts or if it's even feasible--and then deal with the ethics of possibly dismantling the rolls if only part can be saved. Since they haven't been unrolled in years, and they've only actually had the chance to see one or two because they're so fragile, it's hard to say what they look like. OTOH--if there's only one chance to do it, you have to do it right.

The Smithsonian, I think, had a similar project on a large scale with Old Glory--where they made a scaffold with "belly boards" so the conservators could lie a couple of inches abouve the flag and work bit by bit. Our set up needs to be open on either side, so the plan is to to have a large catwalk type scaffold above. preliminary estimates are over 100K before conservation...

Of course, this is in the proposal stages....hasn't happened yet. There are competing projects, and funding is tough. They could also just be put in storage. If people really think, everything should be displayed--then they should come forward with the money. Sorry, to be this way, but it's just the way it is.


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