Please Do Not Touch the Sculpture

I think one really obvious thing you can learn to really question while working at a museum is the public. They really are quite maddening. To compensate, underneath the Getty, there is a whole underground tunnel system spanning 3 floors that are full of offices and can very nearly get you anywhere on the Getty campus without ever having to see, hear or get the germs of the tourists that come in droves. I’ve already heard them called “wildebeasts”.

Yesterday a “member of the public” (some kid) pulled out a drawer in one of the galleries, which means security sends for a conservator to examine the damage. Every Monday, my department troops out to clean and examine 28 sculptures for any cases of “interaction”. What baffles me are the people who daintily step over the “Do not touch the sculpture” signs to get that money shot– especially the ones warning  “Do not touch the sculpture. Lead. Lead is known to the state of California to cause reproductive harm.” REALLY?! You want cancer and reproductive health problems from rubbing/breathing a SCULPTURE?! And you wouldn’t believe the scratches, footprints and other unsavory marks you’ll find on these sculptures. It’s ust crazy how misled the public must be to think they are appreciating art and then crawling all over and thus damaging it.

In other news, my internship is better than yours. This week I:

  • Weighed, melted and mixed the Zelov wax and solvent they use on the outdoor sculptures.
  • Got to wear my respirator (finally!) and wax/buff some sculptures
  • Had an explosive incident with the water hook up down by the tram… Came back from what is supposed to be a routine rinse and soap completely drenched.
  • Watch a reinstall of a cool tapestry
  • Lift training! I can now use a cool automated lift that will put you 25 feet off the ground.
  • Brushed out some urushi lacquer samples fresh from Japan and am now waiting for them to cure in a microenvironment of 100% humidity.
  • Scholar Tea. That is when all the scholars/interns get to drink delicious tea and snacks and just… bask in the glory of our egos? Sounds pretentious enough. But hey, it’s free.
  • Sat in on a lecture about XRF, mid- and near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy, UV-visible spectroscopy (in absorption and emission) and fluorescence imaging of contemporary art by a man from a university in Italy. He is part of MOLAB (MObile LABoratory) and was explaining their results in very… er… unstylistic? Terms. Mostly talked about the chemical compounds of Naples yellow, Renoir’s and Cezanne’s color palettes. There was free sodas and cookies (those in STARC and the lab will know my weakness for free refreshments). We all sort of fell asleep though, and left early.
  • Made B-27 solution with acetone in 5, 25 and 50% batches. No joke, science is so fun (when you aren’t being graded).
  • Got my stack reader/storage request number and privileges for the Research Institute. I always envision some novice dressed in white a la a medieval monastery library hurrying through dark corridors to fetch my books. Too imaginative? They really do have pages though… So cool. I requested about 8 books, so now I’m just waiting for them to cross-check some terminology.

This weekend is three days due to the 4th of July holiday on Saturday, but instead of Friday (which is an off day for some sections of the Getty– we get every other Friday off) we have Monday off, which makes next week only 3 days for me.

I’m seriously in love with my internship, and I can’t wait to bring back what I’ve learned here to the lab!


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