Behind the Scenes, Getty Research Institute, J. Paul Getty Museum

Ask Us! International Ask-a-Curator Day is Wednesday, September 19

Update—Questions and answers here!

Gravestone with a Woman and Her Attendant / Greek

Gravestone with a Woman and Her Attendant, Greek, about 100 B.C. Marble. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 72.AA.159

We’re excited to join hundreds of art, history, and science museums internationally to participate in Ask-a-Curator Day, an online Q&A in which our friendly art experts—curators and conservators at the Getty Museum and the Getty Research Institute—will answer pretty much anything you’d like to know about the collection, exhibitions, or what happens behind the scenes at the Getty.

What are the most popular paintings in the Museum, and why? How long does it take a conservator to piece together a 2,000-year-old broken vase? How do curators come up with ideas for exhibitions? How do you turn the page of a medieval manuscript without tearing the parchment?  We’d love to hear any burning questions you might have!

At the Getty this year is Ask-All-Curators Day—so whether you’re curious about rare books, ancient coins, contemporary photography, or Renaissance drawings, we’ll take your question to the curator or conservator who knows the subject best.

How do you take part? It’s easy! You have four choices:

1) TWITTER: Ask us a question on Twitter. Be sure to include @gettymuseum and #askacurator in your tweet. You need a Twitter account to do this, but it’s simple to set one up. See what other people are asking and answering by following the #askacurator queries and the museums’ answers.

2) FACEBOOK: Post your question on our Facebook page. You’ll need a Facebook account to do this.

3) TUMBLR: Ask us anything on Tumblr. You’ll need a Tumblr account to do this.

4) HERE ON THE IRIS: Simply add your question in the comments below. No login needed, but you do need to type your email address (so we can make sure you’re a real human and approve the comment).

We’re collecting questions from now through late Wednesday. We’ll post on Twitter and Facebook, with more detailed answers to questions here on The Iris throughout the day on Wednesday. See you then!

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  1. Wendy
    Posted September 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    I have aspirations to become a Curator at the Getty Center. What advice can you give in order to achieve my dream and be successful at? Thank you!

  2. Bill
    Posted September 17, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    After you finish restoring Pollock’s “Mural” what paintings will accompany it when it is displayed at the Getty? I’d like to see it shown beside Picasso’s “Demoiselles d’Avignon”. Any chance of that happening?

    • Annelisa Stephan
      Posted September 19, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      Hi Bill! It would be amazing to see two such iconic canvases displayed side by side. No plans for that particular pairing, but I love the idea.

  3. Posted September 18, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Can we make a film of the upcoming Getty Exhibit of Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance. Leonardo Live was so bad that I would like to do better – Curators your thoughts??

  4. Diane
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Did Rembrandt add layers of paint to acheive that eminating light? So beautiful.

    • Annelisa Stephan
      Posted September 19, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      Hi Diane — Yes he did. Indeed, most Old Masters working with oil (and tempera too, for that matter) applied their paint in multiple layers.

  5. Posted September 19, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Hi Nancy — The upcoming exhibition Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance will have its touch of Hollywood cinema through a conversation with actor, director, and Renaissance scholar, Peter Weller (aka Robocop). Check the Getty calendar for December 6. We love the idea of an OTT viral video related to the show, perhaps starring James Franco as a young and intense Dante?

  6. Emily
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Permalink


    I am in my senior year of college at UCLA (Art History major and Anthropology minor), and am interested in art conservation. I’m planning to take further courses in Anthropology and Chemistry after graduating while working in preparation for graduate school. My question is: is it even possible to get experience in art conservation at this point without grad experience (like a volunteer/intern position?)?

    Thank you so much for your time and for participating in Ask-a-Curator Day!

    • Posted September 19, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

      Yes! You can contact museums that take volunteers like LACMA. I’m not sure about the Fowler but it would definitely be in your backyard. You can contact the head of conservation at the Fowler and get guidance and information about the Getty/UCLA program as well as volunteer opportunities. Definitely seek these opportunities since getting into a grad program without experience would be too difficult. Also, look into private conservators in the city that take on volunteers. Good luck, Emily!

    • Posted September 19, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely! Many conservators in private practice will take on part-time volunteers or even paid technician positions. Museums with conservation departments also take on students that show an interest in pursuing conservation. There is a lot of information that can assist you at the American Institute for Conservation’s website, for example, there is a page on How to become a conservator.

      You can also search for conservators in your desired area, and call them for suggestions. There is also an Emerging Conservation Professionals Network organized by the AIC.

      In fact, it is best to seek out experience prior to applying to graduate school. It is a small profession and can be a difficult path to pursue. It is best to make sure you really love it before choosing to go this direction.

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