Attendant steam-cleaning a sculpture
Preserving and managing the collection
Responsible preservation, continuous monitoring of the works of art and updating records for art on loan are just a few of the tasks of the collection administrator.
Sculptures, drawings, prints and medals that are not on display are kept in storage. The storage area was designed by the architect Stéphane Beel and completed in 2001. It is not air-conditioned, but central heating, dehumidifiers and humidifiers ensure ideal humidity levels and temperatures.
The Collection Registration project, which was instituted by the Antwerp City Museums, is used to digitally register and catalogue all the objects in the collection. This facilitates permanent cooperation with other city museum services. The entire collection has now been inventoried and most of it registered in the Adlib Museum Plus programme, which is used for basic registration and also for storing additional information such as works on loan, condition reports, restoration reports, bibliographies and digital photographs. This allows for the entire life of a sculpture or work of art to be seen at a glance.
It might seem as if the statues lead a peaceful existence in the tranquil park, but nothing is further from the truth. The sculptures have a hard life at the mercy of capricious enemies including weather, wind, pollution and vandals.
Surfaces become rough and crusts appear on marble and bronze, while bird droppings cause discolouration. This means that the sculptures require more maintenance than you might expect. Our staff ensure that they are frequently cleaned and waxed, which helps protect them from outside influences.
Despite all of this, it is still necessary to restore works of art from time to time. For this, the museum relies on private restorers, the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage and the Department of Conservation and Restoration of the Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts. For works on wood and paper, the museum has engaged restorers from the Collection Policy Service of the Antwerp City Museums for many years.
Aside from maintaining sculptures in the museum, the Middelheim Museum is also responsible for sculptures throughout Antwerp. They suffer even more than the works in the park from vandalism, air pollution and neglect, which prompted the Middelheim Museum to set up the Beeld in de Stad (Sculpture in the City) cleaning team in 2001 with the backing of the Antwerp Heritage Unit.
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