Currently, our conservation laboratory is buzzing with activity in anticipation of the big reopening of the RMCA in 2017. For conservators and conservation technicians Siska Genbrugge, Stef Keyaerts, Nathalie Minten, Françoise Therry, Marieke van Es and Françoise Van Hauwaert, the renovation of the museum is the ideal moment to revisit each and every object that will be displayed at the renovated museum.
During the past few years, scientists have selected various historic and ethnographic objects to be displayed at the museum; ranging from Africa’s most famous masterpieces such as the Luba mask to more obscure medicine packages and weapons.
Each of those items is brought to our objects conservation lab, where it is measured and weighed and where its condition is verified. Some objects are in exceptional state and only need a little dusting before they can go on display. Most objects on the other hand, have not aged as well and need a little Tender Loving Care.
This small Mayombe figure of a smoking man wearing a hat and a walking stick is one of the patients that needed treatment for display.
The object arrived at the conservation lab with a broken walking stick and a broken pipe. It was cleaned and stabilized; both broken parts were re-adhered with a thermoplastic acrylic adhesive (Paraloid B-72), losses were filled with a cellulose based gap filling material and the fills were toned with gouache paint.
A damaged part of the rim of the figure’s hat had been stabilized in the past with a red varnish as a means
to protect against insect attacks and crumbling of the wood.
This red varnish was carefully removed with a solvent gel and the friable wood is currently consolidated with a cellulose based adhesive and stabilized with a Japanese tissue.
After a final dusting the object is ready to be shown to the public for many years to come…and the next amazing object can be submitted to the skillful hands of our conservation team!
(Text and pictures by Siska Genbrugge, RMCA conservator)