MRCG 2013 Annual Symposium – November 15-17

Recap by Brittany Dolph,Third-year Graduate Conservation Intern, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan

On November 15, conservation professionals from all over the Midwest gathered at the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) for a weekend of informative talks, tours, and conversation. As this was my first MRCG meeting, I was eager to see what the MRCG was all about.

The opening reception kicked off the weekend on a high note, with a notable spread of hors d’oeurves and beverages (the first of which was free – thanks, MRCG!). I was especially impressed with how approachable all of the members were, given that the Guild covers such a wide geographical swath. I found it comfortable to jump into conversations and learn about current conservation events, whether amongst seasoned conservators, fellows, or interns.

Talks were held over the next two days, and I really appreciated the diversity of presentations. The topics varied as much in materials as they did in subject: paintings ranging from Greek icons to Van Gogh, both Classical and outdoor sculpture, contemporary drawings and sculpture, portrait miniatures, carousel horses, historic maps, wax fill techniques, and archaeological collections. There was truly something for everyone!

On Saturday, the 16th, informal tours were given before lunch. These were led by the ever-enthusiastic Per Knutas, and CMA conservation staff members were available in each lab to discuss their work. Attendees were given the opportunity to circulate among the objects, paintings, paper, textile, and framing labs and informally chat with conservators about their current projects. Renovations at the CMA have resulted in a recent reinstallation of the galleries, and consequently there was a flurry of activity in the labs. I enjoyed exploring the collection as well; the highlights for me included the Praxiteles Apollo – one of very few life-sized Greek bronzes in the U.S. – in addition to the extensive exhibitions of Ancient Egyptian, Near Eastern, African, and Southeast Asian Art.

ICA-Art Conservation, a regional lab located in Cleveland, kindly hosted a reception on Saturday night, providing excellent refreshments and showing off their spacious, two-story facility on Cleveland’s West Side – in an historic building to boot!  The ICA has provided services to numerous collecting institutions in the Midwest over the course of its 60-year history. My favorite story was about William Krusoe’s 1939 mural, “The Spirit of Education.” The mural was commissioned as part of the Works Progress Administration’s Cleveland Art Project and was originally located in Cleveland’s Lincoln High School. Many years later, long after the high school’s building was demolished, former Lincoln High students had such wonderful memories of the mural that they were inspired to track it down in a Cleveland Schools district warehouse. The students were able to have it transferred to ICA, where it could be better housed and cared for, and they are currently raising funds for its treatment. This story reveals what an impact cultural landscape can have on individuals, even with something as seemingly mundane as a high school lobby mural.

Following the reception, officers invited members to join them at the Prosperity Social Club for some delicious food and cocktails!

Overall, I found the MRCG to be an incredibly collegial organization. Many thanks to the officers and the staff of the Cleveland Museum of Art for planning and executing such a wonderful event!

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