May 12, 2010 — May is National Museum Month and Virginia museums are focusing on the conservation of collections, a critical function of the museum.
The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection at the University of Virginia has just released a digital slide show featuring two conservation projects currently under way, and its plans for a future storage facility.
Located in a historic house in the Pantops area of Charlottesville, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection contains more than 1,700 objects, including paintings, sculpture and artifacts. It is considered the most significant collection of Australian Aboriginal art outside of Australia. The museum recently obtained funding to undertake two large-scale projects to improve preservation of more than 600 of its works.
One project will upgrade the conditions of 100 acrylic paintings from the Central Desert region of Australia. Staff members and student interns are examining the paintings, documenting their condition and preparing them for relocation to off-site storage. The paintings will then be moved into custom storage bins designed for better protection and accessibility.
Another project will preserve 530 bark paintings from Arnhem Land in northern Australia. Kluge-Ruhe staff and interns are creating custom archival-quality trays to support and immobilize each bark painting – which, as their name suggests, are painted on tree bark and thus prone to warp and natural decay. This re-housing project will facilitate access to the collection and minimize direct handling of the art during retrieval. The trays will maximize the current storage space and can be used to safely pack and transport the bark paintings.
Kluge-Ruhe's future plans to preserve the collection include a new conservation and storage center designated for several collections owned by the University. The facility will double Kluge-Ruhe's current storage space and create improved access to the collection for staff, students and researchers. Shared conservation labs and teaching space will also encourage collaboration among staff members working to preserve collections across the University.