Behind the Scenes at the Denver Art Museum

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The Denver Art Museum is home to lots of impressive art, but many people are unaware of the hard work and dedication that goes into preserving the pieces. Gina Laurin is the Senior Objects Conservator at the museum. She treats and takes care of the three-dimensional objects and some textiles.

Currently, one French Court Jacket, an African Dance Mask, a statue of King Casper, and two horses reside in the Textile Lab. In order to get to their current position, the items have all been placed in a freezer at very low temperatures.
Laurin said,” We put the pieces in the freezer to help with bugs that eat the artwork. If there is any on the piece they will freeze and die without putting any nasty pesticides on the art.”

Some of the pieces need to be x-rayed, however the museum does not have their own x-ray.

“We go to Denver Health to have our x-rays done. When we come everyone gathers around to see what we have this time,” Laurin says with a chuckle.

After that is done to the art, the conservators clean the art. They use cotton swabs that are made on location, brushes, dental tools and even scalpels. Once the artwork is cleaned, it is ready for treatment.

The French Court Jacket was taken into the Textile Lab due to lack of form. The way the piece was formerly being displayed was laying down in an unhuman-like way and the jacket looked as if it were not intended for human use. A stand with a form was built by a conservator to help display the piece.

The African Dance Mask, also known as a Spirit Mask, dates back to the 1950’s. It is from Nigeria and has numerous textiles. In the front of the mask there is a woven piece of black and white fabric that is see-through which is used to see movements while dancing. There is an armhole on either side of the the mask and a small head rests on top of the head hole. When the piece is displayed again, it while be on a rotating platform to create the illusion of dance and movement. The masks are used mainly to connect with deceased ancestors.

The horses and King Casper were both donated from Ecuador. The horses date all the way back to the 1650’s.
“They look shiny because of the gold and silver,” Laurin said.
The ears on the horses were made of cheap materials so they had chipped terribly and were replaced. The insides were eaten by bugs and were hollowed out. There was synthetic material that was injected to stabilize the horse.

The work that is done is quite difficult, but the results are amazing.