Generous Grant Protects Metal Objects

IMLS intern and Robyn Hayne
Conservator Robyn Haynie works with IMLS intern Rebekah Abbot to asses a 500-year-old Chinese gong. 

The UMFA’s collections team recently wrapped up a three-year project to assess, document, and treat metal objects in urgent need of attention. The $90,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) supported the conservation project in whole.

The project began in 2015 with a systematic condition survey of all two-thousand metal objects in the collection. This information was then updated in the Museum’s collections database. UMFA staff prioritized which objects needed urgent treatment and then recruited pre-program specific conservation interns to help. 

Staff and interns treated copper alloy objects showing signs of a particularly damaging type of corrosion called “Bronze disease.” This corrosion progresses through the entire metal body of the object, eventually eating away all of the metal and leaving behind a shell of corrosion if left untreated. The interns carefully cleaned away the surface corrosion and applied a protective chemical coating to stabilize the surface and prevent future outbreaks.

Another key aspect of this project was making sure that every metal object in the collection was photographed and the images made available in the Museum’s internal and public database. UMFA collections photographer Addie Ryder has spearheaded that process with a number of interns. 

Explore the galleries to view metal objects housed in the UMFA permanent collection.