JAMES CUNO, President and Eloise W. Martin Director
The Art Institute of Chicago takes seriously its mission to collect, research, preserve, and display representative examples of the world’s artistic legacy for the benefit of the public. This is a grave responsibility, and nothing we do is more important. Critical to this enterprise are the efforts of our conservators, who collaborate with our curators to assess the condition and likely authenticity of prospective acquisitions; research the physical properties of objects already in our collection while preserving their integrity and beauty; and consult on the proper environmental conditions for the presentation of works from our collection at the Art Institute and on loan elsewhere. This issue of Museum Studies is the first to focus on conservation, and I am very pleased that we that we are able to share information about our conservators’ work with the wide audience of museum members, scholars, and students who make use of this important publication.
While a significant aspect of the Art Institute’s life for nearly half a century, conservation has in recent years assumed a central place in its activities. We now have conservation professionals working in seven different areas: books, objects, paintings, photographs, prints and drawings, textiles, and conservation science. This last and newest area, the Conservation Science Department, is devoted to analyzing the material properties of works of art, their chemical components and physical structures, and the effects of aging or chemical changes on their appearance. We were able to establish the department two years ago thanks to a $2,750,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; as Allison Langley and Harriet Stratis discuss in the introduction that follows, an additional gift has allowed us to extend our scientific research capabilities by collaborating with scientists at Northwestern University. The Mellon Foundation is a leader in funding conservation science, and we are very proud indeed to benefit from their generosity.
Every issue of Museum Studies comes into being through the efforts of myriad individuals, and this one was no exception. Susan F. Rossen, Harriet K. Stratis, and Frank Zuccari believed passionately in this project’s importance, championing it from the start. The editorial assistance of Katie Reilly, Brandon Ruud, and Ginny Voedisch was indispensable, as was the work of Sarah Hoadley, who, with the help of Shaun Manning, obtained many of the images included here. Amanda Freymann oversaw the issue’s production with care and infinite flexibility, and designer Jeff Wonderland found, as he always does, an ingenious way of presenting the subject at hand. We are also grateful to the Department of Graphic Design, Photographic, and Communication Services, especially Caroline Nutley, Loren McDonald, and Christopher Gallagher; the staff of Professional Graphics, Rockford, Illinois; and Meridian Printing, East Greenwich, Rhode Island. We deeply appreciate the financial assistance of The Fred and Susan Novy Family Foundation, which helped make this issue more expansive and beautiful than it might otherwise have been. Thanks are due above all, however, to the authors, who collaborated with one another and with Museum Studies editor Gregory Nosan to create a publication that is at once accessible and challenging, a record of important work well done.