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Art conservation team preserves Rock Hall memorabilia, history

A local non-profit works to repair, save rock history

CLEVELAND — At the Intermuseum Conservation Association in Cleveland's Hingetown neighborhood, they're used to handling incredibly valuable objects.

"We work on archeaological objects from the dawn of time all the way up to things that have just been used in the last few months," says Julie Reilly, Executive Director of ICA.

Centuries-old paintings, a 150-year-old American Flag and even Neil Armstrong's ejection seat are all being restored in their Westside labs, but caring for rock 'n' roll artifacts poses some unique challenges.

"A lot of the artifacts we collect, they have battle scars," says Jun Francisco, Director of Collections at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "We usually leave them alone -- like the stains – because they have stories."

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Working with curators at the Rock Hall, the ICA team uses skills in art history, chemistry and physics to restore music memorabilia to its former glory, while still maintaining it's character.

"When we're working with objects, we're working with the huge stories they tell, so it's much more than just the materials," says Reilly. "We want to leave the sweat stains. We want to leave the tears."

Founded in 1952 by the heads of several local museums, the ICA is a centralized place for historic and art object preservation for both museums and private collections.

From cleaning to patching to restoring, the ICA handles it all for the Rock Hall.

"We have everything from buttons to a Johnny Cash tour bus," says Francisco.

Even professionals get star-struck.

"There are moments, like when I was examining John Lennon's guitar or Sam Phillips' recording device that he used to record Elvis on, then it dawns on me, wow there's a lot of history to this!" says Mark Erdmann, who specializes in metal restoration at ICA.

Everyone's got a favorite piece.

Erdmann's vote: "John Lennon's Bed-In guitar"

Reilly's vote: "The Boss' ballcap is pretty cool!"

Francisco's vote: "Joe Strummer's guitar."

For the art conservators who work at ICA, it's about more that just honoring the belongings of celebrities.

"We have to save these for the future because they connect us to the past and to places and people we can't meet or go to, says Reilly"

Without them, it might all be lost to music history.

For more information on the Intermuseum Conservation Association, which offers free public tours of their labs, visit here.

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