Take a closer look with this piece from Creators on Vice.
Conservators look through microscopes to gather information about an object’s composition and construction—and on a regular day in the lab, knowing such things is an end unto itself. “It’s just interesting, that’s all,” one conservator once told me. When an object’s history is uncertain, however, those scientific results take on layers of meaning, each a potential bit of evidence that can help solve the mystery. In 2001, conservators at the J. Paul Getty Museum undertook a thorough reexamination of a massive French cabinet long believed to be a fake: a 19th century piece designed to resemble Renaissance-era handiwork. Zooming in on a single brass tack turned out to yield important clues as to the cabinet’s making, and helped prove its authenticity.