Meet the Met
Conservation science not only demands a multitude of complex analytical techniques, it also requires collaboration and skilled communication between scientists, conservators, art historians and archaeologists. We step behind the scenes at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, to meet three scientists who are studying the art of the past – and driving art analysis into the future.
Elena Basso, Julie Arslanoglu, Federico Carò |
How important is it to understand the art that you study?
Elena Basso: A basic knowledge of humanities disciplines, such as art history, archaeology, artistic techniques and conservation theory is usually a requirement for a conservation scientist. My own background is in geology, but I also acquired a good knowledge of art, archaeology and conservation. From the beginning of my career, I understood that communication with archaeologists, art historians, curators and conservators was key, and I have endeavored to find a common language.
Julie Arslanoglu: Scientists who enter the field of cultural heritage science may not be required to have a degree in conservation or art, but they need to gain that knowledge, as the preservation of art depends on understanding the materials, the cultural or art historical significance, and the expected appearance of an artwork. Artworks are carefully crafted and considered products of the human legacy, and the materials used, although critical to their preservation, are not the only aspect that our work sheds light on. Our ability to answer questions about provenance, origin, or use is essential to the deeper understanding and contextualizing of artworks.
Federico Carò: I agree with Elena and Julie. For our research to be meaningful, it is necessary to have strong collaboration with art historians, curators, and conservators. We, as scientists, need to know how to communicate with other staff at the museum to gather the information we need, as we work on objects from disparate cultures and times. In addition, we need to have a deep knowledge of the traditions, techniques, and materials used to fabricate works of art.
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