By Kiki Fox
During my Trent A. and Susan L. Carmichael Internship at the Nasher Museum, I was fortunate enough to shadow Kent Severson, an objects conservator and a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation. Hired to conserve selected objects from our antiquities collection, Mr. Severson introduced me to the art of conservation. During the week I shadowed him, I observed the restoration of the red-figure lekythos with the figure of Nike, to be displayed in the “Containing Antiquity” exhibition. It was fascinating to see the object’s transformation from a dusty and precariously delicate artifact to a clean, stable and more aesthetically pleasing piece.
While the photos above make the project seem daunting, the process was comparatively straightforward from a conservator’s perspective. Mr. Severson decided that to stabilize the lekythos and restore its shape he would entirely disassemble the vessel, clean the 34 individual pieces, reassemble them with a stable and safe adhesive, and place infills in two large holes that had threatened the structural integrity of the object. His tools ranged from the thinnest paintbrushes to cotton swabs, from acetone to acrylic paints. The rule of thumb remained the same: Conservation is about removing harmful elements, such as old compounds used decades ago, and preserving the object using safe materials and methods that are entirely reversible.
Learning about conservation from Mr. Severson was an inspiration experience. My introduction to the craft has motivated me to investigate graduate programs in the field. I find that many of my traits, such as attention (even obsession) to detail, need for organization and love for ancient material culture (to name a few) make me comfortable in this field. Even if I decide not to pursue conservation as a career, I will always appreciate its merits as a discipline.
Photos by Kent Severson.
Kiki is a rising junior at Duke.