Lucia BayProject Assistant Conservator of Paintings What do you do at the Museum?
Right now, I’m working on a yearlong project to examine and restore Joos van Cleve’s The Descent from the Cross in preparation for the Johnson exhibition. It was painted in Antwerp around 1518 and was probably the center of an altarpiece, but—due to its compromised condition—it hasn’t been on display for sixty years. The ability to study and treat a single painting for a long period of time is a real luxury. Not only can I take the time to carefully examine and study the piece, but I also can draw on the wealth of knowledge and expertise from others on staff, both in Conservation and other departments.
Hiro SakaguchiInstallation Technician What work from the collection surprises you?
A Jomon period (2500–1500 BC) jar from the East Asian department. As a boy in Japan, I used to dig around a highway construction site to look for hidden Jomon period treasure. I dug up several fragments of Jomon jars and kept them in a cookie box. When I came to the Museum, I was excited to see a complete Jomon period jar—it reminded me of my childhood in my mother country.
Nicole Allen WhiteDirector of Government and External Affairs What work from the collection surprises you?
I’m sure everyone says this, but the Japanese teahouse has been my favorite room in the Museum since I was a little girl. You feel transported when you walk into the room and I always forget that I’m actually inside the Museum. I am still waiting for the day that I can participate in a tea service like they do in the video that is shown in the gallery.
Behrooz SalimnejadThe Elaine S. Harrington Senior Conservator of Furniture and Woodwork What do you do at the Museum? I supervise the furniture and woodwork conservation team. We are responsible for the care, treatment, and conservation of furniture. As part of our job we also do research on furniture. Sometimes we’re asked to authenticate a piece in the collection or something to be included in a special exhibition. Other times, we need to assess a piece that is being considered for purchase or that is part of an expected gift. The process is the same for each project. First, we pull all the documentation. Then we physically examine the piece to see what’s been done and what needs to be done. This requires observation as well as technical studies, such as X-rays. It’s important to be able to see beneath the surface; even what looks like a clear coating can be made up of many layers. And, finally we plan how we will work on it, always being careful to use methods that do not harm the original finish.
Kathleen FosterThe Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Senior Curator of American Art and Director, Center for American Art What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part is installation. It’s the most complicated and the most challenging part, of course, but most curators agree that it is also the most fun. For the watercolor exhibition, it was great to have all this beautiful art arrive and then work with our fabulous staff—art handlers, designers, conservators, registrars—to make my vision real. The process includes a lot of interaction, and my ideas are often shaped by these extraordinarily smart people. For example, it was Jamie Montgomery’s idea to print the introductory signage on actual watercolor paper. People have commented that they like being able to see the surface of the paper. It’s cool ideas like this that make our exhibition projects special.
Nelson HammondDoor Officer What’s the most unusual thing that’s happened to you at the Museum?
In 1999 I was honored to escort Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts through the building for more than four hours. They walked around and talked to one another. I think they just enjoyed the quiet and being away from their fans. They just stayed and stayed—and stayed.
Stephen KeeverAudio-Visual Services Manager What is the best part of working at the Museum?
The root of what is special here is that the work is always different. There are so many aspects of what I do that it never feels static. And I love collaborating on exhibitions with living artists and helping to make their art come to life. I also have provided technical design for many notable performances: Merce Cunningham, John Cage, and Judith Jamison. One thing I admire so much about the visual and performing artists I have worked with is their ability to focus on a process and a project. It’s like they have superpowers.
Jeanine KlineFacilities Project Manager What is your favorite part of your job?
I have three answers to that, two of which probably echo others’ responses. My coworkers are a big part of what I love. I also appreciate having such close proximity to an amazing art collection. The third thing, though, may be more specific to me and what I do: I like to watch the transformation of the buildings. For example, there were only offices in the Perelman Building when I started working at the Museum. And I’ve watched it become what it is now. I like to learn and try new things, and I have the opportunity to do that with my job.
Mark CastroConsulting Curator for Latin American Art What work from the collection surprises you?
That’s such a hard question—there are just so many. But there is one work that I go back and look at over and over, and that is Van Gogh’s Rain. Postimpressionism is not my specialty, but there is something unique about that painting. It is deep and a little melancholy. It’s almost as though you hear the rain falling. The longer I look at it, the more I sink into it.
David BlackmanDeputy Director of Development What is the best part of working at the Museum?
The people. My work is focused around interaction with people, from the incredible staff members throughout the Museum to the generous philanthropists who make everything possible, now and into the future. I find that those who work in the arts and those who support the arts are equally special people and I feel fortunate to work with all of them.
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