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If you tried to visit Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party last week, you were likely disappointed to hear it was closed for maintenance. Twice a year, The Dinner Party undergoes an extensive cleaning by textile and objects conservators with the assistance of collections management staff. The settings are removed to clean the ceramics, and the textile runners are removed and thoroughly vacuumed. At that time we also check for any changes in condition, and thoroughly clean the surrounding space. 

This past week, we had the added task of transporting each runner to our digital imaging department. After 10 years on display, it was time to photo-document the textiles once again. One thing in particular we are tracking is how much fading is happening to the textiles over time. Ten years ago, when the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art was conceived, great thought went into the design of The Dinner Party exhibition room. It is a positive pressure space; meaning air ducts pump clean air into the space which in turn pushes the air ever so slightly out through the few openings. This helps to cut down on dust entering the room. Furthermore, the light levels are incredibly low. These conditions, as well as our meticulous maintenance schedule, contribute to a state of the art exhibition space which allows us to keep this pivotal artwork on view longer than is usually recommended. That being said, any light exposure will contribute to fading, and this was our opportunity to quantify just how much has occurred. We’re still reviewing the data, but enjoy these fun pictures of the process!

Posted by Tina March