The Importance of Conservation at the Museum

By: Alessandro Pezzati

Originally Published in 2012

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Mary Louise Baker in the 1950's
Mary Louise Baker in the 1950’s

In the early years, restoration or reconstruction work was carried out by curators and their assistants, whether it was baking tablets, mending pottery, or fumigating textiles. Later, artists were brought in to do the work, such as Paul Casci, who came from Florence in the 1910s as a restorer. He also made casts for sale by the Education Department.

Museum artist Mary Louise Baker worked on restorations and reconstructions, including the bull-headed lyre from Ur. Her reconstruction, though based on Sumerian art motifs found in the Royal Tombs, was entirely fanciful, and when Sir Leonard Woolley decried it as such upon a visit in 1955 (to accept the Museum’s Drexel Medal), it led to a period of embarrassment. In 1977, Penn art professor James House created the current, simpler look of the lyre, which corresponds to the fact that its original appearance is not known.

Today the Museum’s conservators are much more specialized. In addition to being artists, they must also be scientists and historians, and understand all steps in the creation of the Museum’s artifacts, whether feather headdresses, baskets, or clay figurines.

Cite This Article

Pezzati, Alessandro. "The Importance of Conservation at the Museum." Expedition Magazine 54, no. 3 (December, 2012): -. Accessed April 16, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

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