Happy and Healthy Artwork in 2013

By: Jane Weinke, curator of collections/registrar on January 2nd, 2013

I write this so often, but at the start of 2013 it bears repeating. I love my job!
Recently Woodson Art Museum director Kathy Foley, longtime museum patron, Judy Cherwinka and I embarked on a day trip to Minneapolis. Our mission was to deliver five artworks to the Midwest Art Conservation Center (MACC) and retrieve three recently treated works.
MACC is a non-profit regional center for preservation and conservation of art and artifacts. Think of their staff as doctors who repair artwork. If a painting’s surface is in need of cleaning, a work on paper is torn or stained, or if a sculpture is in need of repair, these are our “go to” friends. 
And yes, the folks at MACC are friends as well as colleagues. Over the years, through a series of successful grants, our dedicated associates have examined and documented nearly every artwork in the Woodson Art Museum collection. These examinations are critical for two reasons: they ensure the artworks are and will remain in good condition (think healthy), and from these reports we developed a long-range treatment plan. This prioritized list allows yearly budgeting for ongoing treatment.  
As you might imagine, the conservation of artworks is time consuming and costly. Just as when you visit your physician, myriad tests are needed to confirm the diagnosis. Following the examination, conservators write a lengthy report outlining their observations and proffering a treatment plan. The final detail on the report is an estimate of treatment costs. Can you imagine if this were standard with our personal physicians!
The Woodson Art Museum is fortunate to have ongoing commitment from the Board of Directors specifically for collection care. Another element key to our success is Judy Cherwinka; she is the Museum’s “conservation angel.” Her yearly support enables the Museum to have a relatively short long-range treatment list – an achievement made possible because of her ongoing commitment to collection care. Every museum should be blessed with such support.
While at the Conservation Center, another Museum patron, Anne Marie Gromme, joined our group. During 2012 we worked closely with Anne Marie on the exhibition of her father’s work, Owen J. Gromme: An Enduring Legacy. She, too, understands the importance of protecting and preserving artworks, which she has done so well with her father’s work.
The photos accompanying this blog show the hospital-like organization and cleanliness of MACC. The staff generously took time from their work to explain the various stages of their current projects. 
The drive home gave us time to discuss our experiences, the importance of the treatments, and the talented and dedicated staff of MACC. It not only takes a village to raise a child, it takes a team to care for artwork – we certainly have a first place team.

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