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Conservation and Collections Management

Conservation and Collections Management is an integral part of the Museum’s stated purpose to hold its collections in trust for future generations. Members of the department support the Museum’s goals through development of conservation treatments, study of materials and techniques, and scholarly research. These activities not only further scholarly understanding, but also contribute to public appreciation of the collections.

The department promotes the long-term preservation of the works of art in its care through six conservation disciplines, an analytical facility, and a collections management division responsible for safe exhibition, storage and transport. Following internationally established standards to maintain the aesthetic and physical integrity of works of art, staff members strive for the highest quality in their work and documentation.

Please direct inquiries about conservation and any questions relating to the care of privately owned artworks to conservation@mfa.org.

Conservation in Action

La Japonaise
Treatment of a large-scale portrait painting by Monet

Minbar Door
Examination and conservation of an Egyptian door from the Mamluk period

Juno
Relocation and treatment of a colossal Roman sculpture from the second century A.D.

The Triumph of the Winter Queen: Allegory of the Just
Cleaning of a monumental painting from the Dutch Golden Age

Etruscan Sarcophagi
Conservation and structural stabilization of two Etruscan sarcophagi

Asian Undercores
Construction of wooden lattice undercores for two Japanese folding screens

Featured Conservation Projects

Auloi of Meroë
Preservation of a group of ancient musical instruments from northern Sudan

King Menkaura
Relocation of one of the largest sculptures of the Pyramid Age

Greek Vases
Conservation treatment of Late Archaic and Early Classical ceramic vessels

Costume Accessories
Design and construction of custom storage mounts to protect fragile costume accessories

Upholstered Furniture
Treatment and re-upholstery of Rococo Revival parlor furniture

Lady Sennuwy
Mounting system upgrade for a masterpiece of Middle Kingdom sculpture

Resources

CAMEO
Conservation and Art Materials Encyclopedia Online

The Giza Archives
Comprehensive resource for research on Giza, including photographs and other documentation from the original Harvard University– Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition (1904–1947), recent MFA fieldwork, and other expeditions, museums, and universities around the world

Conservation Divisions

The department of Conservation and Collections Management was organized into its present configuration in July 2001. Before that time, many of the labs and studios had long and distinguished histories, often associated with specific curatorial departments. Conservation and Collections Management now comprises the following divisions:

Conservators, research scientists and collections care staff work closely to ensure the protection of works of art while on display, in storage and in transit. While preparation of objects for exhibition and loan make up a large portion of the department’s activities, the divisions are also responsible for examining the condition of all objects entering or re-entering the Museum and for providing an assessment, including a determination of authenticity, of all works being considered for acquisition through purchase or gift.

Using a wide range of analytical tools, the technical aspects of artworks are explored so that conservators can undertake appropriate treatments and staff may ensure environmental requirements for safe storage, handling and installation are met. Examinations and treatments are extensively recorded in the Museum’s collections database, and this documentation, rich in both written reports and photography, proves a crucial tool that allows the department to monitor the care and preservation of the collections over time.

Dissemination of research findings through publications and lectures is another priority of the department. In an effort to share and broaden the understanding of conservation issues, staff members frequently offer tours of the Museum’s conservation facilities, contribute to professional conferences, and give presentations at seminars and universities.

Teaching is also an important part of the department’s commitment to the development of the profession, and the conservation divisions host a number of volunteers, trainees, and interns each year. Learn more about this program.