By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – The new Martin Conservation Lab opened one month ago allowing staff to improve their work on paintings and other objects in the collection of the Denver Art Museum. In addition to new resources and facilities available to staff, the lab features north facing windows that will provide a uniform spectrum of light year-round.

The Denver Art Museum's conservation department has a new lab to improve their work on paintings and other artwork.

The Denver Art Museum’s conservation department has a new lab to improve their work on paintings and other artwork. (credit: CBS)

“It really reflects the function and the intention of what it is we are trying to accomplish in terms of exhibition and long term preservation of the Denver Art Museum’s collection,” said Sarah Melching, the Silber Director of Conservation.

The Martin Conservation Lab supports the Conservation and Technical Studies Department and the specializations they will focus on including modern, contemporary and traditional objects. Not only is the lab larger with new equipment, it also includes a separate room for photo documentation and analytical equipment.

(credit: CBS)

This new layout will allow staff to work on different projects at the same time without impacting the rest of the lab. There is also a new room for mount making used to preserve and conserve art. The mounts used by staff not only help to display art, it can be a tool for treatment, storage, and travel of pieces in the collection as well.

“Many objects that have not been exhibited before and can be exhibited now are also a reflection of the conservators that are on staff,” Melching said.  “I think it shows a real commitment to the custodian care of the objects.”

(credit: CBS)

The work done in the lab is just one step in a larger process. Conservation, which can include restoration, is all part of the preservation the museum accomplishes with its entire staff for the pieces in the collection.

“Our job can help bring those facets to life,” she said. “We’re looking at all of these components to ensure access for future generations.”

The lab can also help facilitate the museum’s partnership with other institutions to loan out pieces and ensure their safe travel.

(credit: CBS)

“It’s a really important facet of the purpose of museums to be able to advocate for seeing objects that you know maybe somebody can’t travel to New York to London but it can come to Denver and vice versa,” Melching said.

Some recent work by the conservation team is on display in The Light Show exhibition on view now at the museum. The lab is inside the Martin Building, which is set to reopen in June 2020.

“So it’s really nice to open that up and invite people in,” she said. “Takes a little bit of the mystery out of it.”

Shawn Chitnis

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