Damaged by storm, the collection of the Albany Museum of Art is coming home five years later.

In the first days of 2017, the Albany Museum of Art lost its roof to the winds of a violent storm that played havoc with most of the Georgia city. For hours, heavy lashing rain poured into the building, drenching its permanent collection of paintings, sculptures, and rare books.

More than five years later, only three of the museum’s six gallery spaces have reopened, and it now looks like the rest never will. The AMA is making plans to move closer to downtown Albany, once they’ve found a suitable building. Hopefully, one with a better-attached roof.

After the storm, more than 2000 works had to be sent to conservators in Chicago, and most of the rest of the collection moved into off-site storage.

“It was definitely shocking to see the museum in such a state, but we didn’t have time to sit with our mouths open,” said Katie Dillard, the museum’s director of curatorial affairs. “We had to jump into action.”

For five years, experts did the tedious work of restoring what could be restored and preventing continuing harm to what could not.

Conservation is fiddly work, even with art that has not been damaged by storm. Moisture is ruinous to many historic materials – pigments, adhesives, wood, all are susceptible to even moderate humidity. Drying drenched and soaked wooden pieces, such as the stretchers and frames of most paintings, as well as the museum’s collection of carvings, is a painful tightrope of a process. Too slow and rot or mildew might set in. Too fast, and you might irrevocably warp the piece in question. If the wood is painted, absorbed moisture can lift the paint and cause it to crack and flake.

But that’s why the job was handed to experts. And now the collection is being brought back home to Georgia. Most of it will go into storage while the AMA continues to seek a new home, but an exhibit of select restored works will run from May to August.

Photo: Shutterstock

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