The Virginia Herrick Deknatel Paper Conservation Laboratory was established in 1928 as a service for the department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, home to some 250,000 works of art on paper, so that treatments and exhibition preparations could be done within the Museum rather than by outside contractors. In the early 1970s, the lab began to care for works on paper from other curatorial departments, developing strategies to assess and meet the needs of all paper-based art and artifacts. Today, the lab is named after one of the Museum’s benefactors, Virginia Herrick Deknatel, and continues to provide vitally important services for the entire institution.
The first priority for the lab is to conserve and maintain works of art on paper and related materials to ensure their long-term safety and integrity. In addition, paper conservators are responsible for evaluating the condition of artworks requested for loan, advising on the feasibility and logistics of lending works that can be drastically affected by environmental conditions. With such fragile objects in its care, the lab is also dedicated to performing analytical studies and research on the materials and techniques that are found in works on paper.