Plaster, pliacré, and paper

Mina Thompson and Conor McMahon

Abstract

Established in 1909, the Museum of New Mexico ranks among the oldest museums in the Southwest. It also has one of the longest histories of planned and institutional conservation, beginning in 1935 conserving early Puebloan wall murals to early staff and consultants such as Per Guldbeck and Rutherford Gettens in the 1950s. This paper traces the history of conservation and conservation practices in the Museum of New Mexico System, from its inception as a single museum for Southwestern art by Edgar Lee Hewett to its current incarnation of seven divisions under the New Mexico State Department of Cultural Affairs. Evolving practices and trends of artifact restoration and preservation are discussed using case studies of archaeological ceramics and Spanish Colonial santos. Analyses of treatment materials, supplemented with archival documentation, uncover past treatment philosophies, some of which are remarkably modern. Retreatment and reexamination of these artifacts, as well as efforts to preserve the intangible aspects of cultural materials, have greatly influenced present-day treatments, including choices made in recent years toward less toxic and more easily reversible treatments of these two collection types.

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