Preserving prints for posterity

State-of-the-art conservation lab coming up on Museum grounds

A state-of-the-art conservation lab for long-term preservation of nearly 1,100 paintings, including those by the renowned painter Raja Ravi Varma, is coming up on the Museum premises here.

The lab is a significant step by the Department of Museums and Zoos in cultural heritage conservation. Paintings at the Sree Chithra Art Gallery and the KCS Panicker Art Gallery here and the Krishna Menon Art Gallery and Museum, Kozhikode, and other cultural materials that are at risk in the hot and humid conditions of the State will be conserved at this modern facility.

As the demand for the services of the National Research Laboratory for Conservation of Cultural Property, a premier organisation involved in conservation of cultural property, is very high and there are not enough experts around, there was an acute need for a conservation lab in the State itself.

Even when experts came, only a limited number of materials or paintings could be conserved at a time, Museum Director S. Abu said.

As per the vision of Venu V., Additional Chief Secretary, Cultural Affairs, the full-fledged lab, said to be the third with such advanced facilities after those in Udaipur and New Delhi, has been designed flexibly with movable furniture and equipment for treating all kinds of objects.

Fume extractors, stereo microscopes, UV light panel, DSLR camera, and studio lights for detailed examination and photographic documentation of the paintings and other cultural materials have been provided at the lab.

A low-pressure suction table that has been imported from Italy and enables treatment of variety of objects such as paintings, manuscripts, and documents under controlled heating, humidification, and low-vacuum conditions is a highlight of the lab.

International standards

All materials such as chemicals and techniques used for the treatment and post-treatment also meet international conservation standards.

The lab will help storage and display of objects under optimum light, temperature, and relative humidity to prevent future deterioration.

Besides procurement of equipment and setting up of the lab, the first phase work involves preservation of 16 paintings, including those by Raja Ravi Varma and Raja Raja Varma.

New gallery

The conserved paintings would be exhibited in a new gallery for Raja Ravi Varma that worked in a temperature-controlled ambience, Mr. Abu said. Even the gallery store would be temperature-controlled.

The gallery was expected to be ready by the year-end.

A technical committee with art conservator S. Girikumar as chairperson and comprising K.C. Chithrabhanu and Delhi-based conservator Sunil Kumar Menon has been in charge of setting up the lab and restoration work.

The conservation lab, which cost ₹1.4 crore, will be inaugurated by Minister for Museums Ahammad Devarkovil on September 2.

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