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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conservation in Action
The Death of the Historical Buddha
Now on view in gallery 178: Treatment and remounting of an eighteenth century Buddhist hanging scroll by Hanabusa Itchō
Daily Life in Ancient Greece
Now on view in gallery 117: Preparation of more than 260 ancient Greek objects to be exhibited in a new gallery opening in late 2017
Now on view in gallery 208: Research and examination of a seven-panel Cretan-Venetian altarpiece from the early fifteenth century
Devout Men Taking the Body of Saint Stephen
Now on view in gallery 208: Conservation of an altarpiece by American painter Benjamin West and treatment of its frame
Treatment of a large-scale portrait painting by Monet
Examination and conservation of an Egyptian door from the Mamluk period
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
Conservation and structural stabilization of two Etruscan sarcophagi
Featured Conservation Projects
Auloi of Meroë
Preservation of a group of ancient musical instruments from northern Sudan
Guanyin, Bodhisattva of Compassion
Examination and conservation of a Chinese polychrome sculpture
Relocation of one of the largest sculptures of the Pyramid Age
Conservation treatment of Late Archaic and Early Classical ceramic vessels
Design and construction of custom storage mounts to protect fragile costume accessories
Treatment and re-upholstery of Rococo Revival parlor furniture
Conservation and Art Materials Encyclopedia Online
The Daguerreotype Research Portal
Condition monitoring of daguerreotypes at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, George Eastman House, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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
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:
- Asian Conservation Studio
- Furniture and Frame Conservation Laboratory
- Objects Conservation Laboratory
- Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Paintings Conservation Studio
- Virginia Herrick Deknatel Paper Conservation Laboratory
- Gabriella and Leo Beranek Textile Conservation Laboratory
- Scientific Research Laboratory
- Collections Management
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.