Photo courtesy of Memorial Art Gallery


An early morning fire at Rochester’s Carnegie Building on Tuesday, Jan. 27th, prompted the closure on Wednesday of UR’s Memorial Art Gallery (MAG). During its closure, the MAG ran air scrubbers to protect artwork from potential soot and smoke damage.

“The closing was purely precautionary,” MAG Public Relations Specialist Meg Colombo said, “and it also insulated the public from the distracting sounds and sights of the bright green, rather noisy air scrubbers.” Colombo confirmed that the MAG’s preventative measures worked “well and as expected.”

MAG employees are all trained to deal with a wide range of problems that could endanger the artwork housed at the University Avenue building. “The entire MAG staff, the facilities and security teams included, are focused on art conservation at all times,” Colombo said.

In addition to preventative measures taken inside the MAG, outdoor sculptures were also subjected to a brief cleaning.

“The soot and ash from the fire laid down a fine coating on top of the snow in and around the Sculpture Park,” Colombo said. “We felt it was prudent that we brush off the outdoor sculptures before the snow melted […] and deposited the ash onto the art.”

This is not the first time certain MAG pieces have experienced soot and smoke damage.

“Many works of art have long been exposed to the effects of soot and smoke; for example, those displayed in chapels where candles have burned for centuries,” Director of the MAG Jonathan Binstock said. “Even after centuries have passed and soot and smoke stains have hardened, these surface accretions are regularly cleaned from the surfaces of works of art successfully.”

“Because of the good efforts of our staff, we do not have these concerns,” Binstock added, “[but] it’s worth noting that soot and smoke do not necessarily cause irreparable damage to works of art.”

The MAG has no formal relationship with the Carnegie Building aside from their historical connections through the University and their proximity to one another in the Neighborhood of the Arts (NOTA).

According to the UR Rare Books, Special Collections & Preservations website, the Carnegie Building was originally constructed by UR in 1910 and served as a facility primarily for engineering education with space allocated to other departments as necessary. After 1930, the space was designated as a female residence hall. The building was eventually sold by UR in the mid-1950s and is currently owned by Stern Properties.

Future plans for the Carnegie Building are unclear.

Ransom is a member of

the class of 2017.

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