Technical Preparatory Labs

Paper Preparatory Lab

The CMA’s preparatory lab for works of art on paper is where every photograph, print, drawing, and manuscript in the museum is prepared to be displayed for in-house exhibition, loan, and storage. Most of this preparatory work involves hinging, matting, and framing. Having these works of art assembled this way ensures they are protected and look their best when on display. 

Preparing an artwork for an exhibition starts by using the highest quality museum mat board for the window mat and backing board. The preparator then hinges the artwork onto the mount using specific weights of handmade Japanese papers that are adhered to the art and mat with purified wheat-starch paste. For protecting the art in the frame, the preparator uses state-of-the-art acrylic glazing, which filters UV radiation and is nonreflective, ensuring the highest aesthetic. For an artwork going out on loan, more layers of protection are added. The preparatory creates a sealed microclimate package with Art Sorb, a silica-based material with humidification buffering capacity. Preconditioned to a precise relative humidity, this woven material is placed inside the package with the artwork to guard against any humidification fluctuations while in transit and on display. The final package is sealed with Marvelseal, an aluminized polyethylene and nylon barrier that resists the transmission of water vapor and other atmospheric gases.

Much time is spent on housing the artwork for short- and long-term storage, using a variety of storage materials and housing options that can cater to the individual needs of each artwork. Crucial goals are attention to access and use, protecting the collection from light and airborne pollutants, and using high-quality stable housing materials with known permanence and durability that will not off-gas or otherwise be detrimental to the art.

The CMA's Computerized Mat Cutter

A Wizard Z1 computerized mat cutter allows the prep lab to address the volume of work more efficiently without compromising quality. This industry-leading solution is ideal for custom mat design and ensures precision, consistency, and low waste. The Wizard’s versatility has allowed the prep lab to expand its capacity for making storage containers for three-dimensional artworks.

Conservation technicians

Conservation technicians Carla Fontecchio and Mark Spisak work with the computerized mat cutter.

Frame and Paintings Preparatory Lab

The frame and paintings preparatory lab works closely with the painting conservation lab and examines, treats, and prepares frames for exhibition and loan. The CMA is fortunate to have unique original frames in the collection and strives to preserve these. For paintings that no longer have their original frame, the paintings and frames technician works closely with curators to either find or create frames that appropriately match the style and period of the paintings they will house. The creation of new replica or period-style frames is sometimes done in tandem with the creation of gilded replacement liners when necessary. Frames are not only meant as an intentional complementary decorative element but also serve to help protect paintings while they are on view and during transit. Therefore, the paintings and frames technician utilizes proper hardware to ensure safe and secure installation and archival materials to create backboards and insert battings to dampen canvas vibrations during transport.

Inside the Frame and Paintings Preparatory Lab

    Preparation for Transport

    The frames lab is responsible for glazing paintings and creating microclimate vitrines for paintings that are more sensitive to environmental fluctuations. Work is often underway to stabilize and repair frames in the collection. This includes consolidation of loose and unstable ornamentation, cleaning grime and older nonoriginal coatings, and replicating lost ornamentation.

    Conservation Technician for Paintings and Frames David Piurek

    David Piurek, paintings and frames technician, replaces missing ornamentation.

    #CMAConservation: Technicians