Category Archives: Conservation Stories

Major activities of The Walters’ conservation and technical research laboratory include examination, documentation, collections care, treatment and research. The conservators work in close collaboration with other museum staff members and are involved with exhibitions and other museum programs. The division actively trains young professionals entering the field and promotes public outreach through presentations and publications.

Cartonnage: Fragments of a Mummy Wrapping (Part II)

By using examination techniques that do not damage the object, it is possible to characterize many of the materials that were used to create this cartonnage. Now that conservators know more about these materials, it is possible to make recommendations about how best to store this object so that it will not continue to deteriorate. The fragment will be placed in a closed container to protect the fragile surface from accidental damage and the Egyptian blue from exposure to the air. It will be kept in the dark or in low light to protect the orpiment.

Cartonnage: Fragments of a Mummy Wrapping (Part I)

Cartonnage is the painted material that covers many mummy bundles.  Like a plaster cast, it is made of layers of fabric (usually linen) that are wrapped around the bundle and then covered with a smooth, white layer of plaster.  After it is dry, the plaster surface can be painted with designs and Egyptian religious symbols. Continue Reading →

Consider the Coconut

Today, coconut is a common food, whether baked in a cake, stirred into a curry, or eaten fresh from the shell.  Because it is possible to buy coconuts at nearly any supermarket or grocery store, they are not considered especially rare or unusual.  But this has not always been the case. Coconut palms are not Continue Reading →

Henry Walters’s Watches

The Walters Art Museum contains a large collection of historic watches, many of which were collected by Henry Walters. Mr. Walters appears to have collected the watches mainly with an eye toward the beauty of their cases. Many of the watch cases qualify as miniature works of art in enamel, metalwork, and gemstone; yet recent conservation work has shown that the clockworks inside the cases may often be later replacements, pastiches, or else incomplete and non-functional.

The Conservator’s Toolbox: X-radiography of a Japanese cloisonné enamel

At the Walters, we regularly take x-rays of objects, paintings, and books; this allows us to have “x-ray vision” and look inside objects. Recently in the Conservation Window, an objects conservator was talking with museum visitors about how conservators use x-radiography to non-destructively learn about how objects were made and also assess their condition, using Continue Reading →

The Walters’ Mona Lisa

Few are aware that one of the best and earliest copies of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa is right here in Baltimore at the Walters. The painting is on display in the the museum’s 16th-century art galleries. Recent excitement surrounding the technical examination of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa prompted a re-examination in late September of the x-ray of the Walters’ copy.