Humidity damages museum artwork
By: HAYLEY PETERSON
About 25 paintings and several pieces of decorative art weathered damages after a faulty HVAC valve spiked humidity levels in a storage room at the Georgia Museum of Art.
“We don’t yet know the extent of the damage,” GMOA Director William Eiland said in a phone interview.
A museum conservator is monitoring the affected artwork during the next several days as the moistened paint dries.
The conservator will be able to provide a more detailed assessment of the sustained damages by early next week, Eiland said.
“Paint loss means the integrity of the painting has been compromised to the point of being damaged,” Eiland said.
One such loss was a mid-19th century American painting by artist William Haseltine.
“Some other works are merely wet,” said Eiland. “When the moisture goes away they may be OK.”
Recovering works include “Dogtown” by Marsden Hartley, a painting attributed to Eastman Johnson and a 19th century hunt board from the Piedmont region of Georgia.
Eiland said a hunt board is a tall table that – “legend has it” – enabled hunters to grab food and drink without dismounting from their horses.
He said the table “appeared to have water damage on its surface.”
The broken valve was discovered by a museum security supervisor during a routine check on Jan. 4.
The broken valve caused moist air to flow into the storage room where a variety of paintings, furniture pieces and sculptures are housed.
Eiland said he cannot estimate the cost of the damages until the conservator finishes appraising each compromised piece.
He said he is working with the museum’s insurance company to cover the losses.
The restoration process must be completed before the end of March, he said, when the museum will be sequestering the collection in preparation for its reopening in 2011.