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MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

Conservation and the Care of Museum Collections

The diversity of objects in an encyclopedic art museum presents myriad challenges in cleaning, restoration, presentation, and authentication. Over time, the effects of nature and human handling conspire to alter works of art, even to break them down, but also become woven into the objects' unique histories. This lesson features art objects that tell their histories with particular force, bringing readers behind the scenes into the studios and laboratories of museum conservators. A small sampling of the works from the comprehensive collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, are explored and illustrated, revealing the secrets of conservation and how museum scientists spot a fake. 

This lesson was designed in conjunction with the teacher workshop Museum 101: Behind the Scenes at the MFA, which took place on October 10, 2012.

In exploring this lesson, students will:

·   Learn how the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston's conservators reveal, investigate, and preserve works of art

·   Receive an introduction to the field of art conservation at large.

 This discovery will require students to practice the skills of:

·   Close looking and observation

·   Expressing their ideas

·   Supporting their ideas by grounding them in a work of art or physical environment

Using this resource:

Visual arts teachers will be interested in the preservation of art in various media.

Science teachers will be interested in the scientific process behind art preservation.

The objects in this lesson are just a beginning. We encourage you to explore the Museum's online collection through this web source -- or even better, to visit the Museum and walk through the physical galleries -- to look for other objects that will provide further insights into this topic.

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