The University Record, June 11, 1997

Asian Conservation Lab known nationwide

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

It may be hidden in the basement of the Museum of Art, but the reputation of the Museum's Asian Conservation Lab is well known across the country to collectors and other museums.

In the Asian Conservation Lab, museum preparator Kewei Wang practices ancient skills in this essential behind-the-scenes ingredient in the care and management of the Museum's vast Asian holdings. It is here that Wang, who has trained for nearly all her life to do what she does at the Museum, takes on restoration work for paying clients as well as for museums around the country. The lab is one of a very few facilities of its kind in the country, comparable to workshops housed only at the Freer Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Even private collectors of Asian art seek out the Museum's laboratory.

Wang joined the Museum staff last year after decades of study and conservation work at the Palace Museum in Beijing and the Mannheim Kunsthalle in Germany. "Paste alone takes years to learn," says Marshall Wu, the Museum's senior curator of Asian art.

The paste Wu refers to is prepared from "scratch" by processing flour to separate the starch from the gluten. One of the uses for such paste is in stabilizing the silk base on which a painting is done because the silk often has to be removed from its original paper backing.