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Friday, May 30 • 4:45pm - 5:00pm
(Case Studies in Sustainable Collection Care Session) Fountains, Art, Design, Preservation and Sustainability

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Fountains are popular and engaging forms of civic architecture, reflecting a desire to celebrate community, as well as an urge for beauty, imagination and creativity in our lives. Fountains are also expensive, and the costs can escalate when a sculpture or other artwork is added to the water feature. Water usage, wastage, pool chemicals, and the maintenance of these water features as art raise concerns about diminishing natural resources. Ultimately inspirational design goals need to be balanced with the ability to preserve and sustain our environment. This paper will address evolving approaches to maintenance, sustainability and design implications for four very different water features at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
The museum, located in Kansas City, Missouri, which proudly calls itself the City of Fountains, has three indoor fountains and one outdoor fountain, all with accessioned art placed in a purpose-built structure. The oldest piece is a seven-foot diameter Roman marble Fountain Basin, 220 C.E. (31-98). It stands in a working fountain designed in 1932 and is located in a former outdoor courtyard that now serves as a restaurant. While the ancient basin has received conservation treatments over the years, the museum maintenance department cleans the fountain. The circulating water tank is fed from the city water without additional water treatments, and interestingly, this fountain requires relatively little maintenance. A bronze fountain sculpture by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, Joy of the Waters, ca. 1911, cast after 1945 (F96-38/1) was installed in a modern stone and terrazzo pool, with a distilled water tank providing the re-circulated water. This fountain is also in the care of the maintenance department, though the conservation department advised in the construction of the fountain and looks after the sculpture. The museum’s most complex fountains include the indoor sculpture by Isamu Noguchi, Fountain, 1987 (F99-33/72 A,B) and the large exterior reflecting pool with One Sun / 34 Moons, 2002 (2002.6), a collaboration between artist Walter De Maria and architect Stephen Holl. These two artworks were installed as part of a new addition to the museum in 2007, and a co-operative approach to planning allowed for considerable conservation input regarding mechanical design and preservation issues. The Noguchi sculpture is maintained with distilled water, chemicals, UVC lamps, filtration and elbow grease, while the De Maria’s water depends on filtration, some chemicals and pool sweeping. The maintenance of these two pools is shared by the engineering and conservation departments with the primary goal of preserving the art work placed in the water. This has required constant monitoring, re-design, cleaning, chemical adjustments and staff-time in an effort to make the preservation of these works more considerate of our resources. Each case study underscores how conservators can and should articulate preservation goals, collaborate with designers, and incorporate sustainable practices, while setting realistic expectations for preservation.

Session Moderator(s)
avatar for Sarah Nunberg

Sarah Nunberg

Conservator, The Objects Conservation Studio, LLC
Sarah Nunberg, principal of The Objects Conservation Studio, LLC, has been working as a conservator since 1989. She specializes in conservation of archaeological, ethnographic, decorative and contemporary art, treating objects made of wood, ceramic, stone, metal, glass, skin, leather... Read More →

avatar for Kathleen Garland-[Fellow]

Kathleen Garland-[Fellow]

Conservator, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Kathleen M. Garland received her BA in Art History from Brown University, and her MA in Art Conservation from the State University of New York, Cooperstown. She completed her internship in the Sculpture Conservation Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. From 1986-89... Read More →

Friday May 30, 2014 4:45pm - 5:00pm PDT
Grand Ballroom A