The art of preservation

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By Special to the Monitor

In October, Mesa Public Library will present “Museum Conservation: The Delicate Art Behind the Scenes,” an exhibit of photographs by New Mexico Highlands University Media Arts student Rachel Montoya.


The exhibit focuses on the art and science of repairing and preserving museum collection objects performed by the Museum of New Mexico Conservation Department.

The creamy, close up photographs of hands and objects reflect the quiet, painstaking work conservators undertake to allow fragile objects to be on public view. Conservation is an alchemical blend of art and science, requiring the aesthetic and historical sensitivity to restore objects accurately, while using the very latest technologies and best museum practices to ensure the continued survival of such delicate artifacts.

The exhibit will be displayed from  Oct. 5-30 with a reception and gallery talk from 2-4 p.m. Oct. 18.

Montoya began photographing the conservation process as a participant in the Program in Interactive Cultural Technology (PICT). PICT is a full-semester, 16-week immersive academic and hands-on program designed to prepare students for careers as multimedia professionals in museums, cultural organizations and exhibition design businesses. PICT is a new part of an ongoing partnership between the Media Arts Program at New Mexico Highlands University and the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, which is now entering its fourth year.

Last spring semester, the first PICT cohort worked on projects for “Fashioning New Mexico,” one of the inaugural exhibits at the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe, which opened in May.

As her summer internship following the PICT experience, Montoya continued to work with textile conservator Rebecca Tinkham and faculty advisor Megan Jacobs to develop the photography project into an exhibit. The exhibit also includes the short documentary video that is in “Fashioning New Mexico,” produced by fellow-student Veronica Black.

 “Rachel’s goal was to provide visitors to the exhibit with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the fascinating work that goes on behind the scenes in putting together a museum exhibit,” Jacobs said, “and we also hope that this exhibit will interest visitors in going to the History Museum to see the actual items on display, as well as other multimedia and hands-on components created by PICT students for ‘Fashioning New Mexico.’ ”