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Objects Conservation Lab

The objects conservation lab at the Cleveland Museum of Art is dedicated to the preservation, study, and treatment of three-dimensional art and artifacts from across the museum’s curatorial areas, ensuring that these objects remain accessible and available for current and future generations to learn from.  

Three-dimensional objects comprise nearly half of the museum’s collection overall, keeping the two objects conservators very busy! Objects under their care range from Tiffany stained glass to archaeological cast bronze, and from early American furniture to musical instruments from around the world. They also care for the outdoor sculptures, including The Thinker, and even contemporary video and audio artworks as well as performance art. Since the objects are made from a variety of materials (and often include combinations of materials), the conservators have a wide range of expertise and experience in working with metals, wood, ivory, stone, plaster, ceramics, glass, plastics, and more, and they are continually learning about new technologies and materials adopted by contemporary artists.  

The objects conservation lab regularly incorporates the latest technologies and instruments in its work, including the use of 3-D scanners to document objects, lasers to carefully clean sensitive surfaces, and portable nondestructive equipment for materials analysis. Most of all, the conservators enjoy sharing the stories learned about the objects through lectures, seminars, symposia, publications, blogs, and social media.  

Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and other Cleveland area college students join the objects lab for internships, shadow days, class assignments, and a variety of special projects, including ongoing investigations of how 3-D scanning and modeling can augment teaching and learning in art history. Objects conservators also frequently collaborate with CMA educators to create programming for Cleveland teens and elementary school students.

Inside the Objects Conservation Lab

    Outdoor Sculpture Maintenance

    The objects lab team conducts annual maintenance on the outdoor works of art in the CMA collection, to observe condition changes, remove surface dust and grime, and attend to any ongoing conservation concerns stemming from their exposure to Cleveland weather. 

    Watch #CMAConservation clean Rodin’s The Thinker below.

    Conservator, standing on scaffolding, gently wipes outdoor bronze sculpture