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Conversations on Conservation

JUL 20, 2011

Heather Cox, Conservation Coordinator at the Whitney, answers questions from YI participants, July 2011. Photograph by Diane Exavier

Heather Cox, Conservation Coordinator at the Whitney, answers questions from YI participants, July 2011. Photograph by Diane Exavier

On Wednesday, July 13, Conservation Coordinator Heather Cox talked with us about the processes and challenges of conserving art. We began the day around the big stone table in the conference room at the Museum, and were warmly greeted by water, granola bars and string cheese. The room was dark and the only source of light was that from the projector, which some of us used as a means to make shadow puppets. When session started we went around the table telling each other about what we ate since the last time we met. The answers ranged from maple syrup ice cream to hot dogs. The room quickly filled with smiles.

Next, Heather showed us an informative Powerpoint presentation on what conservators do. The Conservation Department at the Whitney was founded in 2001, and acts as both a treatment and research center. Heather described conservation as a mix of art, history, and science. There is a great deal of detective work in conservation.

Conservators are expected to make decisions about how to repair work by looking back at history, photographs, and other pieces made during the same era and artist. Conservators do everything from reassembling broken sculptures to removing lipstick stains from paintings. All of the repairs are made in the Whitney’s secret conservation lab, located in a once-abandoned room in the Museum, which we visited. We were also able to walk through the exhibition, Lyonel Feininger: At the Edge of the World. Finally, we reconvened around the big stone table to discuss Feininger’s work and recap the past two weeks of the Youth Insights Summer Intensive Program.

By Zoe