During our training, conservators usually specialize in a specific type of material, such as paper or paintings. As we become professionals, we find ourselves in institutions with diverse collections which requires broad conservation knowledge for all of the artifacts under our care, not just those comprised of our favorite material. Nowhere is this truer than at The Strong, where the museum’s collections range from paper dollhouse furniture to Barbie dolls to coin-operated arcade machines. The conservation challenges presented by this wide-ranging collection force me to think outside of the box every single day.
This was true when I was tasked with finding a way to safely mount and display “Mr. Monopoly.” The unique painting, which is in the form of an oversized jigsaw puzzle, was created by artist Eric Waugh during a performance at The Strong’s 2014 Play Ball. Mr. Waugh wowed the crowd by painting each of the puzzle pieces, which were mounted individually to the wall with Velcro, out of order. At the end, he assembled the pieces to reveal a stunning portrayal of everyone’s favorite capitalist, Mr. Monopoly. The painting was later auctioned off and generously donated to the museum by the auction winner. Though everyone was excited, we also recognized that the unusual format would present a few challenges. Why not just stick it in a frame and hang it, you ask? Well, it’s a lot more complicated than that.