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10 Art Secrets Revealed as #MuseumWeek Kicks Off

From Warhol's 610 individual time capsules to Hilla Rebay's rules for arranging art at the Guggenheim, here are 10 art secrets we learned from #MuseumWeek.

by Emerson Rosenthal
Mar 23 2015, 9:30pm

A conservator retouches the Jabach family portrait at The Met. Image via

Did you know that Andy Warhol sealed 610 time capsules with priceless personal effects inside? Did you know that there's a hidden chipmunk in the Museum of Natural History's Okapi Diorama? How about the fact that the Guggenheim utilized a secret set of directions to guide their installations? It's #MuseumWeek on Twitter, and today institutions all over the world are celebrating these lesser-known facts with the hashtag #SecretsMW. We've compiled just a few of our favorites below, though there are many more to be revealed in the coming days.

Andy Warhol Has 610 Time Capsules at the Warhol Museum

Some of the Andy Warhol Museum's 610 sealed time capsules. Image via

Never one to shy away from thinking about the future, Warhol sealed hundreds of personal items inside 610 time capsules. Pictured above, the Andy Warhol Museum is currently in the process of opening and cataloguing each one. 

The Guggenheim's Secret Directions for Arranging Artworks

Hilla Rebay installation instructions, 1949. Hilla Rebay records, A0010, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives, New York. Image via

In 1949, the Guggenheim's legendary co-founder and first-ever director, Hilla Rebay, created illustrations detailing how to arrange artworks, from ordering them to how they should be composed in relation to one another. 

There's a Chipmunk Hidden in the American Museum of Natural History's Okapi Diorama

The American Museum of Natural History's Okapi Diorama has a hidden squirrel lurking in its background painting. Image via

During their time meticulously arranging the AMNH's dioramas, foreground artist George Frederick Mason painted a chipmunk into the Okapi Diorama's background and then propositioned diorama artist (and puzzle-enthusiast) James Perry Mason to find it. 

African Rock Art at the British Museum Has More African Rock Art Underneath

X-Ray scans reveal additional paintings on the British Museum's rock art from Chad. Images via

In 2013, the British Museum began a monumental cataloguing and dating project for their over 25,000 images of African rock art. According to their Curator, Africa, Elizabeth Galvin, beneath the surfaces of these rock paintings from Chad are even more images of early humans and their livestock. 

The Met's Secrets for Conserving the Jabach Family Portrait

A team at the Met handles Charles Le Brun's 1660 Jabach family portrait. Image via

Charles Le Brun's 1660 oil on canvas portrait Everhard Jabach (1618–1695) and His Family required upkeep when Michael Gallagher, Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge, Department of Paintings Conservation first laid eyes upon it. Now, you can learn the secrets of his retouching process on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's blog. As a bonus, download the Met App for even more art secrets. 

MoMa Found a Lost Magritte Underneath 'The Portrait'

X-ray image of René Magritte’s Le Portrait (The Portrait). 1935. Oil on canvas, 28 7/8 x 19 7/8″ (73.3 x 50.2 cm); outline of part of Magritte’s La Pose enchantée (The Enchanted Pose). 1927. Department of Conservation, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © Charly Herscovici – ADAGP – ARS, 2013. Image via

During the lead-in to 2014's Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938 exhibition, MoMA paintings conservators Cindy Albertson, Anny Aviram, and Michael Duffy studied five of the artist's works using ultraviolet fluorescence, infrared reflectography, and x-radiography techniques. Beneath Le Portrait, which depicts the ideal breakfast setup of a bottle, a glass, and a pancake with an eyeball, they discovered a section of 1927's The Enchanted Pose that Magritte had painted over, perhaps in frustration over not selling the work.  

Roger Penrose Discovered That the 'Penrose' Tiles at Science Gallery Dublin Are Incorrect

A section of incorrect Penrose tiles at the Science Gallery Dublin. Image via

While on a trip to the Science Gallery Dublin, mathematician Sir Roger Penrose took a gander at the floor, only to discover that the Penrose tiles—his own creations—had been incorrectly set in stone. 

Museum of Natural History, London Has a Giant, Dragon-like Fish Head

The Natural History Museum, London's sturgeon head sits preserved in a tank filled with methylated spirits. Image via

Did you know that the Natural History Museum, London preserved the head of a giant sturgeon in a "spirit tank" filled with denatured alcohol? Turns out, they only preserved the head because the whole fish was massive.  

MFA Boston Found a van Gogh Painting Beneath a van Gogh Painting

(Clockwise from Top Left) van Gogh's Ravine, an x-ray that reveals the sketch of Wild Vegetation beneath it, and the final painting of Wild Vegetation. Images via

Fresh out of an asylum, van Gogh decided to put a fresh coat over a sketch of Wild Vegetation, his painting of a flowering hillside near the town of Saint-Rémy. Through x-ray scanning, Meta Chavannes, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston's Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Paintings Conservation, discovered the original painting hidden beneath the surface of 1889's Ravine. 

The Smithsonian Castle Has an Entire Collection of Snowflake Photos

A "Dendrite Star" Snowflakes Photomicrographed by Wilson A. Bentley, by Bentley, W. A (Wilson Alwyn) 1865-1931, c. 1890, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, SIA2008-1395. Image via

It's a little-known fact, but the Smithsonian Institution Archives are host to a massive collection of snowflake photos. In 1903, photographer Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley donated 500 of his "photomicrographic" prints for the purposes of protecting against "all possibility of loss and destruction, through fire or accident." During the course of his lifetime, Bentley took over 5,000 snowflake photos—a practice which was cut short after he died in 1931 from pneumonia caught while walking through a blizzard. 

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