Conservators Bring Life to Walters Art Museum

By Elaina Moradi

The bustling streets of Baltimore were no comparison to the silent halls of the Walters Art Museum as a crowd of people gathered at the “Watch a Conservator at Work” event on Saturday afternoon.

The event features professional art conservators publicly analyzing and preserving ancient pieces of artwork to help people get a better understanding of where the art came from and how it has influenced modern craft.

“We deal with many different aspects of caring for the collections which include everything from monitoring weather conditions, cleaning and restoring artwork, and learning more about the authenticity of the artwork and where it came from,” said Greg Bailey, 31, assistant conservator.

The conservators at the museum have discovered artifacts dating as far back as the third millennium B.C. The galleries contain preserved ancient artifacts from regions including Egypt, Greece, Rome, France, and Turkey, making the Walters Art Museum internationally renowned for its collection of art.

“The Walters has the second oldest conservation department in the United States. We answer questions about authenticity and historic technologies to get a better understanding of how this art was made. Walters has a fantastic collection of art from all around the world,” said Bailey.

Conservation at the Walters began in 1934. The department consists of four branches, including paintings, objects, rare pieces of writing, and science. The conservation department has a staff of 15 conservators and scientists who identify and conserve artwork daily.

“For the past eighty years the staff here has been working through this backlog of things and we’re not exactly sure what they are,” said Bailey, “everything that comes across my desk is something new and different. It’s interesting to see what it is, where it came from, and how it’s changed over time.”

The galleries are family friendly and educational. Melissa Watson, a Baltimore City native, brings her seven-month-old son, Gabriel, to the Walters Art Museum once a week to watch the art conservators at work and to look at the variety of other exhibits the museum offers.

“He loves watching them clean the pieces of art, he gets so excited every time they take out a new cotton swab” said Watson, “I rather bring him here so he can be exposed to art instead of just turning on the TV and letting him zone out.”

The “Watch a Conservator at Work” event gives you a behind the scenes look at how the art at the museum came to be what it is today. The event is held at the Walters Art Museum every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 12:30-4 p.m. IMG_1588 IMG_1592

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