I haven’t been to see much art recently, which is an omission I really ought to rectify. To my credit, I did try to visit the Folger Shakespeare Library on a recent trip to Washington DC, but their gallery was closed as they were installing a visiting exhibition from Oxford, so other than a quick look at the Ashbourne portrait (not actually of Shakespeare) and an intriguing painting of Queen Elizabeth I holding a colander it was a bit of a bust on the culture front. However, I did manage a quick trip to MoMA a few weeks ago, but not to see any art – I went to listen to an audio tour about dust. I had never considered this before, but clearly dust is a significant issue for museum collections (and libraries too, we certainly accumulate a good deal of it), and of course you can’t necessarily just whisk a duster around the artwork. You don’t actually have to go to the museum to participate – there’s an excellent review on the Hyperallergic site, and you can also listen to it on the MoMA website (I think it’s available until April), but I happened to be in the area and thought it would be more fun to listen on site.

The tour was completely fascinating. It mainly takes the form of short conversations with various members of the museum’s facilities and curatorial staff, taking listeners around particularly problematic areas of the building, describing how various locations are cleaned, and even examining the composition of the dust (apparently MoMA’s dust looks fine and grey to the naked eye, but when you put it under a microscope it contains a rainbow of colours). Would that the colonies of that substance currently sharing my apartment were so interesting…!


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