Art Conservation


Conservator Ruth Norton trains a Kluge-Ruhe Collection intern in surface cleaning.

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection is charged with the stewardship of over 1700 objects. Collections Manager and Registrar Nicole Wade supervises activities relating to the preservation of the collection such as maintaining a specific environment to ensure the longevity of the collection, monitoring and documenting the condition of objects, preparing objects for exhibition and loan, and storing the work appropriately. The Kluge-Ruhe Collection is proactive in aligning its care of the collection with best practices established by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). Preserving this important collection ensures its continued use by future generations and enables us to provide access to the University community, Australian Aboriginal people, and international artists and scholars.

Bark Painting Selected as One of Virginia’s “Top Ten Endangered Artifacts”

In September 2011, the Virginia Association of Museums hosted a competition among Virginia museums to raise awareness about preserving artifacts in the care of museums, libraries and archives throughout the Commonwealth. The Kluge-Ruhe Collection nominated Djarrakpi Story (1966) by Narritjin Maymuru for the competition, and this piece was selected as one of ten winners. The painting shows signs of deterioration, particularly in areas where the pigment is flaking off the surface. The painting’s selection as a winner has increased awareness of the Kluge-Ruhe Collection as an important site for public history and conservation in Virginia.

Museum Assessment Program and Conservation Assessment Program

In 2009 the Kluge-Ruhe Collection participated in the Museum Assessment Program, which is designed to help museums assess their collections care program in relation to best practices in the museum world. Acting on the recommendations set forth by MAP places the museum in a position for future grant funding.

In 2011 the Kluge-Ruhe Collection participated in the Conservation Assessment Program, which conducts a general conservation assessment of the museum’s site, collection, and environmental conditions. CAP provided a report that is helping the museum develop strategies for improved collections care.

Bark Rehousing Project

One third of the Kluge-Ruhe Collection consists of culturally and historically significant bark paintings from northern Australia that date from the early 1940s to 2007. Bark paintings are constructed from organic materials that are naturally unstable, making them challenging to preserve.

From 2008 to 2010, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection undertook a major project to preserve over 500 bark paintings by re-housing them in custom storage trays that preserve the paintings, minimize handling and provide visual access to each piece. Each painting was evaluated in order to create a space-efficient storage plan. Dominique Cocuzza, who served as Curator of Collections from 2008-12, worked with a packaging designer to fabricate kits for open-sided stackable trays. Nine interns worked over the course of two years to complete the project.

The following video demonstrates the extent of the project and provides a step-by-step tutorial on the construction of the storage trays.

Preserving Aboriginal Art at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection from Kluge-Ruhe Collection on Vimeo.

This project included the following resources:

Preserving Aboriginal Art poster selected as a finalist in President Sullivan’s Inaugural Poster Competition, University of Virginia, April 2010
Preserving Aboriginal Art poster presented at a Poster Session during the American Association of Museums Conference, Houston, TX, May 2010
• A list of materials used to make the trays
• A bibliography of the conservation of Australian Aboriginal bark paintings