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News Student Blog: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology

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​Maggie using a Er:YAG laser to reduce overpaint on the Italian cassone panel at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Image Credit: Gianfranco Pocobene.

Over the last ten months I have had the opportunity to split my third-year between two amazing facilities in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts. The first portion of my third-year was spent in the objects conservation lab of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Founded by the renowned conservator and Monuments Man George Stout, the Gardner conservation department has been an integral part of the museum since 1933.

My tenure at the Gardner coincided with the exciting floor-to-ceiling renovation of the Raphael Room on the second floor of the museum. While this project involved replacing the floors, lighting, and historic textile wall coverings, I was most involved with the conservation of the artifacts within the room. My 18th century furniture treatments allowed me to collaborate with a private furniture conservator, and to delve into historic reupholstery. Subsequent projects involved treatments ranging from consolidation of polychromed and gilded wood, to surface cleaning of marble with a Nd:YAG laser, and even the creation of a digital reproduction of a Venetian cut glass mirror.

​Maggie stabilizing tears on a Tibetan thangka from the collections of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. Image Credit: Fallon Murphy.

The most complex project I encountered during the Raphael Room renovation involved the analysis and treatment of a 15th century Italian cassone panel.  The panel had suffered significant alteration prior to entering the Gardner collection, and no longer retained its original gilded appearance. Extensive technical analysis in collaboration with scientists at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston allowed me to characterize the original composition of the cassone panel, and to better understand the alterations that had occurred. Using this analysis, coupled with theories of cleaning learned during my time as a WUDPAC fellow, I developed a cleaning system to allow the removal of the extensive overpaint. This treatment also provided the opportunity to learn about developments in laser cleaning technology, through the testing of overpaint reduction using a Er:YAG laser.

In March I began the second section of my third-year, which I am completing at Harvard's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. My first project at the Peabody has been the stabilization and rehousing of a group of Tibetan thangkas that were collected in the 1930s. As an objects conservation major also pursuing a textile minor, the thangkas are an excellent match for my interest in composite objects. They provide an unusual challenge as they require a blend of objects, textile, and painting conservation treatment approaches. Beyond treatment, it has been great to take advantage of the many lectures, exhibitions, and programs that are constantly occurring throughout the Harvard Community. Though I am still relatively new at Harvard, I can already tell this will be a wonderful place to spend the final months of my term as a WUDPAC fellow.

— Maggie Bearden, WUDPAC Class of 2017

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​In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2017 Fellow Maggie Bearden talks about collaborative conservation at her third-year internships at museums in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

​In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2017 Fellow Maggie Bearden talks about collaborative conservation at her third-year internships at museums in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Student Blog: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489