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June 10, 2010 11:54 AM
Susan Blakney, a senior painting conservator at Westlake Conservators and member of the AIC Collections Emergency Response Team (AIC-CERT), traveled to Haiti May 4-8 to help conduct an assessment of the country’s artwork damaged by the January earthquake. Blakney and two other conservators visited a dozen museums, which she says have made great strides in retrieving and storing damaged artwork. She describes seeing 500 paintings that were stacked “in a pile like pancakes” awaiting conservation care. Haitians are anxious to save their paintings, which are one of their “national loves and largest exports,” she said. However, the country doesn’t have the materials to conserve the “vivid, colorful, and thematic” artworks that are part of their social history, she says. Conservators will be needed for many years to help restore the country’s artwork and to train Haitian artists on conservation techniques. Blakney is certain that the paintings she assessed can be restored to exhibition standards.