WHAT IS CONSERVATION?

Art conservation is the preservation of art and objects of cultural heritage through Examination, Documentation, Treatment, and Prevention. To learn more about conservation ethical guidelines and how to become a conservator, please visit the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.

Examination
Each treatment project begins with an in-person examination by one of our conservators. Using visible light, ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR)radiation, binocular magnification, and other diagnostic techniques, coupled with advanced training in art history and artistic techniques brings understanding to what the artwork is, how it was made, and its condition issues.

Documentation
Documentation is an essential part of conservation treatments. MACC conservators use photodocumentation and write detailed condition and treatment reports for every artwork. This documentation becomes a part of the artwork’s permanent record. Valuable and historic artifacts are often repaired numerous times throughout their lives, so complete and accurate treatment documentation is particularly important for researchers.

Treatment
Also called “intervention,” conservation treatments are the physical action that changes something about artwork in order to repair, stabilize, or otherwise preserve it. Modern conservation practices view the original object; and the intentions of the person or people who created it, with great respect. Wherever possible, conservation techniques are stable and reversible. They are also well-integrated visually, but distinguishable from the original material by trained conservators.

Preventive Conservation
Art and objects of cultural heritage are subject to deterioration through ten external factors, called the ten “agents of deterioration.” Fire, water, direct physical forces, incorrect temperature, incorrect relative humidity, pests or mold, thieves or vandals, dissociation, light, and pollutants. By mitigating the influence these agents have, collections material can be protected from damage. Actions that mitigate agents of deterioration are called Preventive Conservation, and they include environmental monitoring, integrated pest management, security, storage and display, disaster response, and safe handling techniques.