This six-minute documentary explores a behind-the-scenes look at how the Museum cares for its collections. During a routine condition survey of Reynolda's paintings collection, contract conservator Ruth Cox found Grant Wood's Spring Turning, 1936, to be in need of attention. A heavily yellowed varnish layer and large traction cracks in the surface of the painting indicated the need for treatment. The Museum was awarded a grant from The Henry Luce Foundation for the treatment of the Wood painting along with several other masterpieces in the collection. The video gives viewers a general idea of the process that takes place over months of treatment by a skilled conservator.
The care and preservation of the Reynolda House collections is one of the cardinal responsibilities of the Museum and is an integral part of our mission. The practice of conservation has evolved over the centuries, and as conservators have come to understand the chemical processes underlying their treatments, they have become more conservative in their approach, namely, that every treatment should be reversible. The emphasis in conservation today is on the idea of prevention of deterioration through control of the environment, in climate, storage and exhibition this approach is called Preventative Conservation. Although the Museum lacks a conservation department, our Collections Management Department is responsible for the overall care of the collection and we practice a preventative conservation program in accordance with standards of the field. Period surveys by well-qualified conservators help us assess the condition of works and prioritize a schedule of treatment. Donations and our Membership Program allow us to properly care for the collections for future generations.
COLLECTIONS CARE & MANAGEMENT
Musuems must address critical issues in the management and care of their collection in order to preserve them for future generations and to fulfill their mission. Reynolda House Museum of American Art is committed to the standards of collections care and management set by the American Association of Museums.
Collections form the core of any museum's visitor experience as well as being the central focus to most of its public and educational programming. Reynolda's collections number approximately 23,000 objects. Most museums are able to display only a small percentage of their holdings. Fortunately, we are able to display close to 70% of our collection at any given time.
Over time, all objects change or deteriorate as a result of environmental conditions, use, accidents, and natural forces of decay. How an object is handled, displayed, and stored can mean the difference between preserving it for many years or for only a short time. The major environmental factors that affect the long-term preservation of objects are light, relative humidity, temperature, and human error.
Light, temperature and humidity are some of the factors that Collections Management staff monitor and control in order to slow down the rate of deterioration of collection objects. Most lights are kept at a low level while others are motion-activated to prevent fading and damage to the objects. Hygrothermograph machines are used to track the temperature and humidity levels throughout the Museum.
If you are interested in preserving or finding out the value of an object in your personal collection the following links will provide useful information.