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Mission Impossible? Ethics and Choices in Conservation

Most exhibitions with conservation as their subject highlight successful and dramatic treatments, especially where examination and remedial action have led to a significant discovery about the object. This exhibition - organised by the Conservation division of the Museum and exploring conservation across the entire collection - will concentrate on issues that face the conservator and curator when deciding the best treatment for each object, not only to preserve it but also to make it as accessible as possible. Almost invariably there is no single and correct course of action - every decision is a compromise that might result from what has happened to the object in the past or affect its future.

Examples are drawn from the Museum’s collections of fine art, antiquities and applied arts, where the condition of objects and a combination of the degradation of the materials from which they are made and their history, often pose problems for their safe display.

The exhibition will include a fascinating examination of the agents of degradation from the inside - the self-destructing components of many objects such as glass and artists’ pigments - and from the outside - the damaging effects of light, changes in relative humidity, unsuitable storage, past inappropriate treatments and the ravages of pests, including insects and that most ubiquitous specimen: man. Working models will enable the visitor to see - and, by being encouraged to touch, contribute to - damage taking place, highlighting fundamental issues faced daily by those engaged in the care of the collections.
A programme of courses and talks accompanies the exhibition.

Sat 1 July 2006 to Sun 24 September 2006
Mellon Gallery (Gallery 13)


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Mission Impossible: Ethics and Choices in Conservation