In April, Sarah Scaturro joined the museum as the Eric and Jane Nord Chief Conservator. She aims to help a broader audience see the importance of conservation through sharing the work of the museum’s expert team.
“When there is a common goal and a common curiosity between curators and conservators, really amazing things can occur,” Scaturro says. “I’m looking forward to seeing the synergies that can happen here at the CMA.”
Most recently, Scaturro led conservation initiatives at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for nearly eight years. She grew the department from one conservator to five and was involved in storage facility renovations and collection moves. Her team worked on three of the Met’s top 10 most-visited exhibitions, including Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, which welcomed more than 1.6 million visitors.
She is impressed at how the CMA incorporated fashion into the exhibitions The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s and Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern. “Putting on a fashion exhibition is challenging. It takes a specific skill set to dress mannequins,” she says. “To mount clothes, you have to change the mannequin to fit the clothes, not the other way around. Finding ways to make the clothing beautiful and dynamic when the mannequin is lifeless and static can be difficult.”
At the CMA, Scaturro oversees the operation of five labs focusing on Asian paintings, Western paintings, objects, paper, and textiles, and supervises a staff of eight conservators, four conservation technicians, an administrator, and several fellows and interns.
Having studied Italian and history at the University of Colorado Boulder, she is completing her PhD in material culture and design history at Bard Graduate Center in New York City. Scaturro is fascinated by the conservation challenges of polyurethane, and she helped the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture during its collection building and outreach, when it invited the public to bring family heirlooms for identification and preservation guidance.
Scaturro has high praise for the conservation labs built during the CMA’s expansion. “I’m excited about the beautiful facilities and working with the staff in the Facilities Department,” she says. “The museum has so many thoughtful engineering systems to monitor its environment. It’s top of the line. I can’t wait to work with my new colleagues to continue aiming for best-practice standards, as I really care about preventive conservation.”
Cleveland Art, Summer 2020