Back on September 25, a group of students from the University of Georgia, Athens drove all the way up to Raleigh to visit the NC Museum of Art. The visit was part of Professor Mark Abbe’s course entitled Senior Seminar Greek and Roman Art: New Approaches and New Discoveries.
Discussing gallery design and object interpretation with Mark Abbe’s students from the University of Georgia, Athens.
This study trip included a special curatorial tour of the Egyptian galleries, where I discussed the design of the galleries, interpretation of objects and general curatorial work. Students also studied the Classical marble statues they had selected for a research paper due later this semester. I remained on hand to answer questions.
After a delicious lunch Neomonde (a must when Mark is in town), the visit continued in the NCMA’s Conservation lab, where Noelle chatted about paintings conservation, Perry demonstrated laser cleaning, and Corey and I talked about the Bacchus Conservation Project and objects conservation.
As always, it was a pleasure to spend the day with students who are interested in art and eager to learn about careers in the museum field. (Clearly, the tour was deemed beneficial and interesting because I received a hand-written thank you card sent by snail mail! That was such a pleasant surprise.)
The recent work on the NCMA’s statue of a Bacchus was featured in my post on August 11; however, there appeared yesterday on Circa, the Museum blog, a fabulous post (if I may say so myself) that delves into the actual UV examination and the Bacchus Conservation Project like never before. Check out the very awesome video on Circa: Black Light on Bacchus: Inside a UV Exam.
I have to thank Luke for the video editing, sound editing and film footage, Karen M. and Chris for the stills and UV photos, Karen K. for the post storyboard and editing, Stacey and Corey for their conservation eye, Maggie and the guys for moving Bacchus around, Noelle for poking her head in the studio once in a while to check if we needed anything and Emily for mentioning our UV session on social media (which actually attracted the attention of journalists).
This week, I had planned a three or four day photography session of the statue of Bacchus… the statue that is soon to be object of a special conservation project. The session included regular photography, documentary photography and videography as well as UV examination and photography. Basically, Bacchus got the treatment he did not receive last summer during our nights at the museum.
The statue was brought to the museum’s photo studio and we spent the whole day examining every surface and every break under ultraviolet and regular light. Below are some pictures I took with my BlackBerry (and one is courtesy of Corey and her iPhone–that would be the one of me on the ladder with Chris).
The marble statue of Bacchus in the photo studio.
Yours truly holding the ladder so that Chris can wave a UV wand during an exposure and illuminate the top of Bacchus (where the big UV lamps don’t reach).
Weird ghost-like photo… it seems I took my shot at the same time as the strobes went off—overloading my camera with light. Cool, huh?
What perfect lighting does: show incredible details in the sculpted marble. Isn’t it amazing?
Side view of Bacchus under UV and the detail of the arm join on the computer.
Photographing every little detail of Bacchus: here Luke holds a reflector to dispel shadows as Karen takes a photo… of either Bacchus’ bum or the cracks in the joins in his thigh.
It looks like Bacchus sat in a puddle of radioactive goo… but the yellow-green stuff you see is the fluorescence of the restoration materials.
We were so efficient and everything went so smoothly that we were done by 3pm today! Bacchus was done in one day! All of us working on this project were rather pleased because it means we have the rest of the week to catch up on stuff. In my case, I’ll work on a conference presentation… and, if I can get that done quickly, get back to my revisions of an article slated for publication. I’m so glad we finished early!
This is the last of my posts on the intensive study of the marbles conducted in early June (at least for now!). In addition to polychromy, we did something that was never before done at the museum (and probably never will be done again): gamma radiography! Two of our marble sculptures (Bacchus and Hercules) posed questions that could only be answered by radiography. We tried x-rays, which we can do in our conservation lab, but these were not strong enough to allow us to see through the marble. We had to go for industrial strength radiography which uses gamma rays. Baker Testing (the company who worked on the Juno at the MFA Boston) did this for us.
Gamma radiography is radioactive, so we had to find a room at the museum that had thick concrete walls and was away from work areas. We did find one, underground, off the art tunnel. We restricted tunnel access to team members and we stayed well clear of the radiography area—all of us geeky enough to know that Bruce Banner turned into the Hulk after being exposed to the rays of a gamma bomb. (None of us wanted to turn green and Kermit the Frog will tell you’ it’s not easy being green!) The radiation zone was actually quite small (we checked with the Geiger counter). The radioactive source was contained in a small Ghostbusters-like unit to which was attached a collimator that focused the beam on the part of the sculpture that needed to be studied. A plate just like those used in x-rays was placed behind the limb to record the information.
We spent the whole day with the guys from Baker Testing, checking the radiographs after they scanned them into their computer, discussing what we were seeing, asking for shots at different angles or more penetration. At the end of the day, Hercules did not turn into Hulk-cules (I have been wanting to say this for weeks!), but while some questions were answered with the gamma, others remain for Mark to puzzle out. The knowledge acquired from those gamma radiographs will help us with the conservation of Bacchus, a major project to be undertaken over the next few years. We could see the rather long metal pins and c-clamps we knew would be holding him together, but we also realized that he suffered a major catastrophic incident that shattered his right side—this resulted in more pins, pegs, clamps, which we could not have seen without the gamma.
Conservator Noelle Ocon got a new coffee mug for the occasion!
Only the team had access to the tunnel.
This Ghostbusters-like unit holds the radioactive source.
Just like an x-ray, a film is placed in front of Bacchus’ thigh (with the collimator behind him) to take radiograph of the leg join.
Breaks are visible on Bacchus’ upper arm and wrist.
The marble insert tells us there is a C-clamp joining the shoulder and the upper arm.
The gamma radiograph shows the C-clamp we believed joined the shoulder and the upper arm, but it also shows another metal pin joining the inside of the upper arm to the torso.
Some archaeologists work in museums. I’m one of those archaeologists and I take care of all the ancient artefacts at the North Carolina Museum of Art. You will find on Untitled, the NCMA blog, some of my recent scholarly activities regarding the Classical marbles in the collection. Click here to find out where Bacchus went…