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News Student Blog: Walters Art Museum

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​Left: Amaris Sturm, WUDPAC class of 2018, consolidating cracked enamel under magnification on a Russian enamel frame; right: during treatment detail of cleaning the enamel surface with saliva and ethanol. (Images courtesy of Angie Elliot)

After a summer of archaeological object conservation at the University of Michigan’s Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, I returned to the east coast in September to begin my third-year internship in the Objects Conservation Lab at the Walters Art Museum.

The Walters Art Museum, formerly the Walters Art Gallery, is located in Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon area. The collection was started in 1846 by William Thompson Walters. Later, his son, Henry Walters, expanded his father’s collection, acquiring large numbers of objects ranging from ancient Roman artifacts to 19th century Fabergé enamels. When Henry died in 1909, the collection was given to the city of Baltimore “for the benefit of the public” and the Walters’ mission statement keeps this in mind, striving “to create a place where people of every background can be touched by art.”

Today, the Walters collection includes over 35,000 works of art and is divided into 8 curatorial departments, including Islamic, South and Southeast Asian, 18th and 19th century, European, Renaissance and Baroque, Mediterranean, and Art of the Americas, as well as the Rare Book and Manuscripts collection.

​Amaris Sturm, WUDPAC class of 2018, filling and inpainting losses to enamel on a Russian enamel frame. (Image courtesy of Angie Elliot)

With the goal of expanding my treatment and research experiences in both decorative arts and archaeological objects, I’ve been excited to dive into treatments ranging from a Chinese lacquer Guanyin sculpture to 19th century gilded brass chandeliers.

To assist with preparations for the exhibition “Fabergé and the Russian Craft Tradition: An Empire’s Legacy”, I had the opportunity to treat a 16th century Russian enamel and copper-alloy frame (WAM 37.580). Still attached to an icon panel painting depicting the Seven Days of the Week, the frame had both structural issues and loss of decorative enamel. Having been previously restored, fills had severely discolored, while old coatings and surface grime had obscured the beautiful and intact enamel surfaces. Loose metal components had caused further damage and loss to the fragile glass surfaces. The goal of treatment was to remove the old, disfiguring restoration materials, provide overall structural stability, and finally to visually reincorporate areas of loss through minor aesthetic compensation.

The glass surfaces were lightly cleaned with saliva and ethanol, while the metal components were cleaned with odorless mineral spirits. The glass, now clean, is significantly brighter and shiny, exposing an intact and bright glass surface. To prevent the loose enameled panels from shifting, they were stabilized with wedges of toned Japanese tissue tacked into place with Paraloid B-72. Broken and flaking glass was consolidated with B-72, while fills were completed using acrylic paint and Primal WS-24. With treatment complete, you can now see this beautiful frame on exhibit in the Walters’ galleries, surrounded by other lovely examples of Russian enamels.

​Russian enamel frame before treatment. (Image courtesy of Amaris Sturm)

The first five months of my time at the Walters Art Museum have flown by. The coming months will be filled with new treatments and new adventures starting with an upcoming excavation in Sudan with the University of Michigan followed by exciting new projects at the Walters. I can’t wait to see what shows up next on my lab bench and what new materials I’ll explore.

—Amaris Sturm, WUDPAC Class of 2018

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In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2018 Fellow Amaris Sturm talks about her work with conservation staff at the Walters Art Museum, preparing objects for an exhibition of Russian enamel.

​In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2018 Fellow Amaris Sturm talks about her work with conservation staff at the Walters Art Museum, preparing objects for an exhibition of Russian enamel.

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  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489