Questions for ‘Cool Jobs: Saving precious objects’

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2014

Martin Smith, who heads the ceramics and glass program at the Royal College of Art in London, assembles parts from the Meissen table fountain for the Victoria and Albert Museum.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2014

To accompany feature: Cool Jobs: Saving precious objects


Before reading

1.    What would happen if you left your clothes or a book on a shelf for 50 years? How might those objects change?

During reading

1.    Why is Neil Armstrong famous?

2.    What is the difference between a curator and a conservator?

3.    Name three ways the staff at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum limits damage to spacesuits in the museum’s collection.

4.    Why was a spacesuit taken to the National Museum of Natural History in October 2014?

5.    Why would the Victoria & Albert Museum have acquired a piece of art if it was broken into pieces?

6.    Why did Reino Liefkes visit Germany?

7.    How did conservators at the Victoria & Albert Museum create new pieces for the Neptune fountain?

8.    Why did the Harvard Art Museums’ Rothko paintings fade?

9.    Why didn’t conservators repaint the Rothko paintings?

10.  How did digital projectors in the Harvard Art Museums “restore” the paintings?

After reading

1.    Conservators and curators at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum want to build a mannequin to support Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit. Now that they have a CT scan of the suit, what might be their next step?

2.    Museum conservation can be expensive, requiring the work of many people and the use of complicated technology. Why do you think that museums do this kind of work? And explain why you think this is worth the expense — or not.


1.    The owners of the Neptune fountain used the sculpture to impress people. What kinds of objects do people use today to impress others? Would any of those objects land in a museum 200 years from now? Name at least three that you suspect will prove worth saving and why?