12 April 2013
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) is currently holding an exhibit that goes beyond the art â it's a show about conservation technologies that are keeping the museum's Islamic collection pristinely preserved.
"Making the Invisible Visible: Conservation and Islamic Art" explains how art historians get a better sense of a work's history â and how to best take care of it â with advents such as infrared and X-ray light wavelengths.
The show will run at the Met, 1000 Fifth Ave., through August 4, 2013.
Twenty pieces of art in various media and an explanatory video will be presented in the Hagop Kevorkian Fund Special Exhibitions Gallery. The highlighted items include a 17th Century wood box with ivory, a 19th century wool, a silk children's coat and a 16th century watercolor painting.
While our eyes respond only to visible light, important additional knowledge is obtained through the use of other kinds of light on the electromagnetic spectrum, including x-rays, ultraviolet radiation, and infrared radiation. The exhibition highlights how various kinds of light reveal areas of earlier restorations and repairs as well as new information on the materials originally employed.
The exhibition also explains how this information helped Metropolitan Museum scientists and conservators determine appropriate courses of preventive conservation and loss compensation.
Through minimal, non-invasive, and reversible conservation, fragile objects were stabilized and restored to a level sufficient to enhance the public's appreciation of their aesthetic qualities.
In addition, officials said, the greater technical insight allowed conservators to repair a work of art as close to its original look as possible â rather than relying on guesswork.
A brief film within the exhibition highlights recent conservation performed on the celebrated Emperor's Carpet, an exceptional classical Persian carpet of the 16th century that was presented to Hapsburg Emperor Leopold I by Peter the Great of Russia.
Yana van Dyke, associate conservator at the Met working on the show, said recent advents in the conservation field â both from the scientific, material and textile discipline as well as art history â will protect these cultural milestones.
"We have a very strong moral responsibility to preserve fine works of art â to make sure that they have the physical integrity and that they're housed in an environment critical to their long term stability," she said. "We're saving them for the future."
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