Presenter Information

Megan Crutcher, Department of History

Abstract

What is museum conservation and why does it matter? Increasingly, museum professionals are having to answer this question not only for themselves, but for the public as well. I argue that conservation’s definition is twofold, encompassing the actual work, as well as public engagement and presentation. First, conservation is the act of preserving and protecting cultural heritage to improve its structural integrity and historical significance. Second, conservation’s ultimate effectiveness lies in its ability to leave the public informed and passionate. Two of the best examples of these programs are the conservation of the Star Spangled Banner at the Smithsonian in 2008, and the visible conservation laboratory, constructed in 2010 at the Musical Instrument Museum in Arizona. Through awareness of the risks and deterioration that heritage faces, the public is better equipped to support museums and historic sites like these. I measure “success” in conservation programming in terms of visitor engagement and museum support. Using reports from the American Institute for Conservation and the National Council on Public History, I conclude that engaging conservation programs utilize: long-term exhibits that revolve around conserved objects, interaction with conservators, visible conservation work, and STEM themes. Thus, these four practices can change the way institutions approach conservation, and through it, visitor engagement.

School

McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Advisor

Alima Bucciantini, PhD

Submission Type

Paper

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Engaging Visitors with Conservation: The Key to Museum Sustainability

What is museum conservation and why does it matter? Increasingly, museum professionals are having to answer this question not only for themselves, but for the public as well. I argue that conservation’s definition is twofold, encompassing the actual work, as well as public engagement and presentation. First, conservation is the act of preserving and protecting cultural heritage to improve its structural integrity and historical significance. Second, conservation’s ultimate effectiveness lies in its ability to leave the public informed and passionate. Two of the best examples of these programs are the conservation of the Star Spangled Banner at the Smithsonian in 2008, and the visible conservation laboratory, constructed in 2010 at the Musical Instrument Museum in Arizona. Through awareness of the risks and deterioration that heritage faces, the public is better equipped to support museums and historic sites like these. I measure “success” in conservation programming in terms of visitor engagement and museum support. Using reports from the American Institute for Conservation and the National Council on Public History, I conclude that engaging conservation programs utilize: long-term exhibits that revolve around conserved objects, interaction with conservators, visible conservation work, and STEM themes. Thus, these four practices can change the way institutions approach conservation, and through it, visitor engagement.