This chemist is preserving art—before it’s too late
At New York’s Met, conservation scientist Eric Breitung is preventing damage to priceless treasures—and sharing what he's learned.
That means preparing the Met for some 60 exhibitions each year, in spaces that range from 100 to 20,000 square feet. Design elements for each exhibit contain chemicals that could be damaging, depending on the art. For instance, acetic acid in a fabric display-case liner might be safe for a clothing exhibit but would corrode metallic art. Breitung and his three-member team are trying to develop a first ever “Rosetta stone of volatile chemicals that are in modern materials, so we can determine what levels are problematic for different types of art.”
Breitung’s lab is at the forefront of preventive conservation in the museum world. “Conservation started by looking at how to treat objects that have been damaged…Now we’re thinking