Conservation Secrets: the Search for Truth through Restoration and Rejuvenation

  • art
  • religion
  • judaica
  • history
  • cultural history

Exhibition and Live-Restoration
Exhibition Curator: Dr. Doron J. Lurie
Assistant Curator: Rachel Berkovitz

“Conservation Secrets” shines a spotlight on the long-standing connection to conservation at the U. Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art. At one time home to a school and studio for wood conservation, the museum has often engaged with the ethical questions surrounding the restoration process. This exhibition examines some of these questions for the public, beginning with the ideas of truth and authenticity. Can authenticity be achieved when objects are removed from their original context or reconstructed in any way? Where is the line between interpretation and recreation? Examples pertaining to each of these questions and more fill the museum’s exhibition galleries. From Modigliani to the golden Menorah, Titus to Theodore Herzl, the discussion encompasses forgeries and amateur restorers as well.
Alongside these questions are the people who contend with them every day for a living. The exhibition includes quotes and pictures from the professionals who restored pieces in the museum’s collection, and every label lists the name of the object’s conservator. Inherent in the exhibition is the notion that museum objects are not simply beautiful artefacts; they are created by artisans and maintained by the nimble fingers of restorers. The human element is not overlooked.
The culmination of these themes lies at the heart of the exhibition: the museum’s unique eighteenth-century painted Sukkah panels from Venice are undergoing a live restoration. The project is being carried out by the esteemed Italian company Piacenti, LTD., whose conservators work in one of the galleries so that visitors can be a part of the restoration process in real time.
The exhibition is accompanied by a unique educational program. School children experience a hands-on workshop about the natural materials used in artworks where they are asked to closely examine objects and “restore” broken pottery. Additionally, large screens with magnifying cameras attached invite students and adults alike to dive into objects on a micro level, to experience the material of an object in the way a restorer does. Ideally, visitors will end their visit to the exhibition and live restoration reflecting on the importance of preserving and maintaining history for future generations.