Cleaning and Varnishing Paintings at BYU Good info for collectors


Public Art Protection

18 ft. murals receive protection

Protection of some art historical paintings under her care has been the concern of the curator of the Education in Zion Gallery at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, Heather Seferovich.  “Protection against what?!” You might ask… “at BYU?!” “Whose going to damage art at the Lord’s University?!?!”

Well, as she well knows, even artwork that you would consider safe could be at real risk and, especially in the public venue, needs to be thought about. Well, as a curator, she’s done more than think about it.

Yes, these could be accidents, even vandalism, to the murals in the Joseph F. Smith Building and their varnishing is a way to make the valuable artwork safe for maintenance too. But it hasn’t been until recently since Mormon leaders have incorporated seismic safety standards in building construction and in public displays that it now comes up as a worry in the minds of others. Seismic safety, especially along the Wasatch Front in Utah, both for the artwork and the public is a concern. These concerns are important to address whether the art is new or historical.

Ms. Seferovich consulted with Harold B. Lee Library Head of Conservation, Chris McAfee about the best way to proceed. For these purposes, the gallery hired veteran painting conservation expert, Scott M. Haskins (from Fine Art Conservation Laboratories in Santa Barbara, CA) who also provides art conservation services for the History Dept of the LDS Church in Salt Lake City, UT and several other entities in Utah.

The paintings in question are located in the Education of Zion Gallery in the JFSB on BYU’s campus. One mural entitled The Temple, A Holy School depicts the Kirtland Temple with a stormy sky; the other, The School, A Temple of Learning, features the early Brigham Young Academy building, which is now the Provo City Library. These beautiful 18’ murals represent the power of integrating sacred and secular learning and were painted specifically for this location and purpose.

10 years of grime were carefully removed from the murals before they were hand varnished (for the first time). The varnish quality chosen was conservation grade and based on Standards of Practice of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, the national professional art conservation organization – the AIC. Two paintings on display were also cleaned and varnished and went through a significant transformation.

See the short video of the work performed. Note, there is good information contained in this video for those that own paintings or are art collectors:

Mr. Haskins was assisted in the work by students from the Harold B. Lee Library conservation lab. They were able to clean parts of the murals and they also cleaned and waxed the frames. BYU Physical Facilities built the scaffolding in front of each of the two murals and helped remove the frames.

Seferovich, the curator of the Gallery conscientiously reviewed the measures taken to make all the artwork, including sculptures, safe if there were to be seismic activity. Of course, “safe” means not only for the artwork but also to make sure that the public is safe in the event that objects on display move. To their credit, Facilities also took the proactive actions to double check the seismic safety of the attachment of the murals to the walls and for the frame attachments around the two murals. They will not be coming off the wall with the next “big one” which is a comforting thought.

Be sure to visit the Education in Zion Gallery soon to see the finished conservation work on these stunning works of art, which symbolize the aims and mission of BYU. The gallery is grateful for Scott M. Haskins’ expertise in helping to conserve these murals.

Contact information:

Heather M. Seferovich, Curator, Education in Zion Gallery, 3183 JFSB, Brigham Young University, Provo UT 84602, (801) 422-3451

Scott M. Haskins, Virginia Panizzon, Oriana Montemurro Art Conservators, Fine Art Conservation Laboratories (FACL, Inc), P.O. Box 23557, Santa Barbara, CA 93121, 805 564 3438,

Links of interest:

Video Channel

Videos on mural conservation projects at FACL:

Facebook page Scott M. Haskins

Mural Capability Statement:

Interesting media clips for FACL:

About Scott Haskins

Scott M. Haskins has been in the field of professional art conservation since 1975. He studied and worked doing mural and painting conservation in Italy until 1979. He headed up the painting conservation laboratory at Brigham Young University for the BYU Permanent Art Collection and the LDS HIstorical Department until 1984. He works from Santa Barbara, CA providing art conservation services nationwide. He is also the author of "How To Save Your Stuff From A Disaster."
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