By MARK ROOSA
The Eames exhibition that opens at the Library on May 20 (one of four domestic and three European venues; a decision on a Far East tour is pending) will offer objects that will not be seen at its other venues, such as an assortment of beautifully crafted three-dimensional models created for the IBM Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair. "I marveled at the intricacy of their construction," said Exhibition Conservator Rikki Condon.
Three years before the exhibition was scheduled to open, the Conservation Division began a series of preliminary reviews to create a final list of items for inclusion. Ms. Condon examined hundreds of items, set conservation guidelines such as light-exposure limits and exhibition-housing requirements and determined conservation treatment needs.
Because the exhibition includes architectural drawings, photographs, collages, watercolor sketches, pastels, ink manuscripts and multimedia 3-D models -- a total of more than 500 items -- Ms. Condon had to be very strict with the time allotted for conservation treatments. Many items were so light-sensitive that between two and four alternative items had to be chosen to rotate over the life of the exhibition. These reviews spanned several months and led to a final list with a numbering system describing each item, how long it could remain on display, its size and media.
The exhibition material was photographed and brought to the conservation laboratory for minor treatments such as flattening, dry-cleaning with an eraser and mending. Condition reports were created for each item, detailing its unique physical features and exhibition requirements. Most art-on-paper objects were encapsulated in polyester or housed in mats and frames to protect them from the rigors of exhibition travel and installation.
For virtually all exhibitions in-house or elsewhere, the Library provides custom-fitted exhibition supports for all items. In some cases, exhibition cases must be constructed to the Library's strict conservation specifications. Once the exhibition opens, Library staff will monitor the objects on display and keep a careful eye on the temperature and relative humidity of the exhibition space.
Safeguarding the Library's treasures does not stop in the conservation lab. On many occasions, Ms. Condon has been required to accompany objects to their destination. For the recent traveling exhibition "From the Ends of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress," Ms. Condon's adventure included riding along with 165 objects for 24 hours in a 48-foot, climate-controlled big rig to Dallas, where the exhibition opened. The expert packing and uncrating by fine arts handling companies also play a crucial role in the success of a traveling exhibition.
The work of Charles and Ray Eames will see Ms. Condon as needed in other venues to ensure that the objects are in the same condition as when they left the Library.
Mr. Roosa is chief of the Conservation Division. He thanks Ms. Condon for assistance in preparing this article.