The Science of Display Cases

Roman  /  Aged Herakles  /  1st c. BC-AD  /  Acquired by Henry Walters

Conservator Katie Posthauer has been working for two years on a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to help identify and replace display cases in most need of updating to current conservation standards. Some of the display cases throughout the galleries at the Walters are older than others, and are made of less-stable materials than what is available now. This means that the conditions inside the case aren’t always ideal for the objects on display. Katie’s job has been to work with other conservators to determine which cases are at the highest risk and to replace them.

Once a case has been identified for replacement, the objects inside are removed from the gallery and a new case is built using the best materials available. This includes a special silica gel (similar to the little packets you’d find in your new shoes), special acrylic, and other pieces. The environmental conditions inside each case are carefully monitored, and even the fabric on the floor of the case is carefully tested to ensure that it cannot harm the object on display. Once the new case has been built and is ready, each object is removed and is cleaned.

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Further Revelations on the Walters and its connection to the Monuments Men

Recently, our conservation department has discovered another important connection to the Monuments Men:

This past Sunday, February 9, our auditorium was packed to the rafters for our lecture Monuments Man: The Walters’ Marvin Chauncey Ross. Michael Kurtz, National Archives expert, recounted how the “Monuments Men” tracked and located nearly five million European artworks and cultural treasures stolen by Hitler and the Nazis during WWII. Among them was Marvin Chauncey Ross (1904–1977), the Walters’ first Curator of Medieval Art and Subsequent Decorative Arts. Melissa Wertheimer, Walters’ archives assistant, also shared her fascinating discoveries while researching the Marvin Ross papers at the Walters.

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