conservation: benton murals

last summer i was lucky enough to have the opportunity to help margaret contompasis at the iu art museum (along with another undergrad, a grad student, and two other conservators) treat two of iu's thomas hart benton murals from his cycle of the cultural and technological history of indiana.  the two we treated were the last in the cycle chronologically (besides two lunettes that have since been lost) and are housed at woodburn hall.  the cultural panel is extremely controversial because it depicts the kkk, which had a strong presence in indiana at one point (based out of martinsville).  the mural in no way supports the kkk, but benton believed that a history of indiana could not leave the group out.  they're shown in the background, to show that their beliefs and influence have since been disregarded, but the mural has still received some pretty harsh treatment.  everything from soda (more acidic than you want to know) from chewing tobacco have successfully made their way on to the mural.  our process was long but extremely rewarding.  using cotton swabs we cleaned and removed the varnish, consolidated, inpainted, then reapplied the varnish.  the difference is spectacular.

documenting damage
cleaning w/ cotton swabs

more consolidation
checking the consolidation
pretty bad shape: loss, flaking, tenting, cupping, all of it.
much better!
more inpainting
more inpainting

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