The Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, which provides analysis and treatments for the Harvard Art Museums’ collections, recently moved in to the fourth and fifth floors of the new facility—which Angela Chang, assistant director and conservator of objects and sculpture, called “a showstopper.”
“The new lab is breathtaking,” she said. “We were on the top floor of the building before, but now everything has been transformed.”
Part of the learning process of moving in, Chang said, is becoming familiar with the sophisticated shading system; Straus Center staff can manipulate exterior shades to let in the exact amount of light that various projects require, from inpainting to examining the surface of a work of art. “We worked very closely with engineers and architects to define the light levels that we wanted for examining and treating works,” Chang said.
Another feature of the new facility is that visitors will have a partial view of conservators at work. “Art in the lab is somewhat raw,” Chang said. “It’s out of its frame, sometimes it’s in pieces. Because visitors will be able to see us working, they’ll have a better appreciation of how art gets into the galleries. The lab’s visibility establishes a real connection between works in progress and the finished products on display.”
In addition, laboratory staff, conservators, and scientists will be more connected to the museums through the open building plan and courtyard views. “We’ll be able to see visitors and students right from our work spaces,” said Chang. “That’s going to be a rich experience.”