Trained at the Museums: Marion Verborg

Jun 13, 2014

Roy Lichtenstein, Sandwich and Soda, 1964, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum. © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.

The Harvard Art Museums have trained scores of museum leaders who have gone on to make remarkable contributions to the curatorial, conservation, and education fields. We offer a number of opportunities for emerging graduate and postgraduate scholars interested in the production and presentation of original scholarship within the museum context. In this regular series of interviews, we catch up with these museum professionals to see where they are now.

Marion Verborg was the Craigen W. Bowen Paper Conservation Fellow in the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies from 2011 to 2012. Last month, she was back on campus to present the research she did as a recipient of the Baird Fellowship.

Q What is your current position?

A I am the paper conservator and lab manager at the Cologne City Archive, in Germany. I manage 20 conservators and 40 technicians, organize day-to-day duties in the labs, and coordinate various on-site projects. I also do conservation treatments on the more valuable or fragile objects of the archives. It’s quite an adventure!

Q Can you tell us about your experience as a fellow in the Straus Center?

A I performed many advanced conservation treatments on various documents and types of material (Indian paper, pastel, print on plastic, and more). I carried out a technical study and conservation project focused on Roy Lichtenstein’s screenprint on plastic Sandwich and Soda, 1964; that project included a historical study, analytical analysis, and tests on mock-ups. The results were presented at the Association of North American Graduate Programs in the Conservation of Cultural Property (ANAGPIC) conference in 2012, at the American Institute for Conservation Annual Meeting in 2013, and at the International Association of Book and Paper Conservators (AIDA) Symposium in May of this year.

I also gave a lecture to students in Harvard’s History of Art and Architecture department; helped with the installation of a photography exhibition at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum; and along with paper conservator Anne Driesse, led a paper-making workshop for donors to the museums. All of these opportunities to present were extremely rewarding to me.

Q You received the Baird Fellowship to support a research project after your time at the Straus Center. Can you tell us about the work you did with that award?

A My Baird research project is about Lichtenstein’s use of unusual materials for printing surfaces in artworks created between 1964 and 1967. The Harvard Art Museums own fascinating objects that he printed on Rowlux, such as Landscape 5, as well as other materials. Rowlux, a type of film, has not been intensively studied until now, and other materials and techniques deserve a closer examination as well in order to better understand the artist’s printing process. The Baird Fellowship allowed me to travel to Paris, New York, Boston, Chicago, and London to study Lichtenstein’s works up close.

Q How did your training at the Harvard Art Museums prepare you for the work you are doing now?

A Working at the museums taught me how to work efficiently and how to conduct a research project and synthesize information. I learned how to carry out difficult conservation treatments. Furthermore, I came to understand how important collegiality and teamwork are: a conservator should work as closely as possible with other conservators (from different fields and with expertise in different materials), conservation scientists, and curators. Being in such a stimulating environment also taught me to be more adaptable to varied situations.

  • Roy Lichtenstein, Landscape 5, 1967, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum. © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.
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    Roy Lichtenstein, Landscape 5, 1967, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum. © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.