What is art conservation? The conservators of Shelburne Museum are responsible for protecting the parts, colors, and surfaces of all 150,000 pieces within the Museum’s collection! This week, I joined the Quack Pack during their visit to the conservation lab to meet Capricorn, a beautifully designed Dentzel carousel goat made in the early 1900s. Nearly fifty years ago, a thin coat of linseed oil--an oil made from flax that is commonly used in treating and preserving wood--was put on Capricorn's body as a protective cover from time, harsh sunlight, as well as dust and dirt. Unfortunately, the linseed oil has done more harm than good! It has left a dark, grimy coat on his once-polished body. Here in the Conservation lab, intern Courtney is working hard to bring back Capricorn’s fine details and bright colors.
Figures like Capricorn can take up to forty days to clean! Here, I watch as Courtney removes dark linseed oil from Capricorn’s coat. After Capricorn’s transformation is complete, another Dentzel carousel figure from Shelburne Museum’s collection will receive the same makeover thanks to donors and interns like Courtney. You can keep track of Capricorn’s transformation by checking in each week to his Flickr feed!
Courtney’s favorite part of conservation is the element of discovery. What combination of gels and liquids will remove the dark brown linseed oil from Capricorn’s once-shiny coat? She tests and retests, carefully discovering mixes that bring out the best in the carousel goat.
Visit the Circus Building to view some recently restored circus figures! With three weeks left of his cleaning, Capricorn will return to his carousel pals in no time.