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Spring Cleaning at the MOA

What's it like to take care of the Museum's outdoor collection? We asked one of our student employees.

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Members of the MOA registration team clean the sculpture 'Juno,' which rests outside the northeast entrance of the Museum (Reuben Nakian, 1992, bronze, 86 x 90 1/2 x 84 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, 1993).

Taking care of our collection is hard work! With over 18,000 artworks in our care from all sorts of mediums and eras, we rely on the talents and knowledge of our Registration Team, comprised of both full-time and student employees. Last week, it was finally warm enough for the annual spring cleaning of our outdoor collection, which includes the sculptures surrounding the Museum. We sat down with a member of that team to discuss what goes into that process.

Madeleine Unguren is a sophomore studying art history and chemistry who's been part of our Registration Team since August 2022. "I had always loved museums," she said. "I volunteered at a museum in high school, I love art, and I came to see if they had any jobs available." Madeliene says it was interesting to see the behind-the-scenes aspects of working at a museum. "I didn't fully understand how a museum ran until I started working here," she confessed. Now, she's planning on going to grad school to learn more about art conservation once she graduates from BYU.

We asked Madeleine what her day-to-day job is like. "Registration is the department that is in charge of taking care of the artwork and collections. We put up exhibitions, take exhibitions down, and deal with loan agreements, or receiving and lending artwork to and from other museums. We also make sure the art is in good condition." Depending on the day, she might work on the Museum's database, check and update old records, help transport or install artwork, or complete condition reports, in which "you get out the artwork and you note anything that might be abnormal, like spots of dust or torn corners. You take measurements and assess the condition of the work. If it's in good condition, it could go in a future show, or if it's not in good condition, we note that it may need to go to conservation."

On May 1, Madeleine and her crew got the call that it was time to clean the sculptures outside the Museum. "It's fun to get up on the statue, because normally you aren't allowed to," she admitted. "We don't want to use any harsh chemicals on the statues, so we use Dawn dishsoap and water. It's a gentler soap that's not going to cause problems. We washed it down with a hose first, and then we climb up on the base of the statue and carefully move around it and cover it all with soap using soft sponges. Then we washed it off and did it again."

For Madeleine, working at the MOA has been a "super fun" experience. "I love working at the Museum. I've learned a lot. It's really cool that BYU has such a good Museum here on campus."

Learn how you can get involved at the MOA