August 21, 2012
Last Chance to See Conservation Exhibition at Colonial Williamsburg’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum
Museum guests have a final opportunity view an exhibition that fuses good, old-fashioned detective work with the high-tech world of exotic tools and cutting-edge science. “Conservation: Where Art and Science Meet” closes Monday evening, Sept. 3 at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, 326 W. Francis St., Williamsburg. Until then, guests may immerse themselves in the rarely seen world of object conservation — a fascinating and compelling mix of disciplines — history and art with science — with much the same aura as today’s crime scene investigation dramas, without the criminal element.
Antiques that were centuries in the making owe their continued existence to professional conservators who use the latest techniques to stem the ravages of age. The exhibition leads museum guests through a behind-the-scenes examination of conservation practices that begins with the object’s creation. As they follow an antique’s “DNA” beginning with the object’s manufacture, they see its interaction with external forces that influences the object. Eventually, the journey concludes with conservators who analyze and document the forensic evidence and use it to make their treatment decisions.
“Our conservators are among the very best in their profession,” said Ronald Hurst, vice president of collections, conservation and museums. “Their dedication and expertise are evidenced by the superior care and treatment afforded the thousands of antiques and works of art in the collections. This intriguing exhibition illustrates the conservators’ key role at the museum.”
The exhibition also enlightens guests about care for their own keepsakes — encouraging them to apply conservation principles at home. Nearly 70 objects and hands-on activities illustrate museum practices as they suggest methods to care for family treasures. The enemies are the same — light, pests, pollution, temperature, humidity and poor handling all take their toll at home and in museums.
The exhibition also examines the sophisticated tools available to modern conservators: X-radiography, X-ray fluorescence, microscopy, infrared light spectroscopy and others.
The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg include the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, with more than 5,000 folk art objects made during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum exhibits the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670–1830.
The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are located at 326 W. Francis St., just east of the intersection with South Henry Street, and are entered through the Public Hospital of 1773. The museums are open daily and hours vary seasonally. For museum program information, telephone (757) 220-7724.
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at www.history.org.