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New Met Exhibit Shows How Tech Is Saving Islamic Art

UPPER EAST SIDE — The Metropolitan Museum of Art is debuting an exhibit Tuesday that goes beyond the art — it's a show about conservation technologies that are keeping the museum's Islamic collection pristinely preserved.

"Making the Invisible Visible: Conservation and Islamic Art" explains how art historians get a better sense of a work's history — and how to best take care of it — with advents such as infrared and X-ray light wavelengths. 

The show will run at the Met, 1000 Fifth Ave., through August 4, 2013.

Twenty pieces of art in various media and an explanatory video will be presented in the Hagop Kevorkian Fund Special Exhibitions Gallery. The highlighted items include a 17th Century wood box with ivory, a 19th century wool, a silk children's coat and a 16th century watercolor painting.

The main motif of the installation, Met officials say, is to demonstrate how these different kinds of light indicate past — sometimes inaccurate — restorations and revamps.  These various wavelengths can also show what materials comprise a work, making them structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing.

In addition, officials said, the greater technical insight allows conservators to repair a work of art as close to its original look as possible — rather than what they might envision.

Yana van Dyke, associate conservator at the Met working on the show, said recent advents in the conservation field — both from the scientific, material and textile discipline as well as art history — will protect these cultural milestones.

"We have a very strong moral responsibility to preserve fine works of art — to make sure that they have the physical integrity and that they're housed in an environment critical to their long term stability," she said. "We're saving them for the future."