The Paintings Conservation Studio was established in 1902 in the form of a single Keeper of Paintings, who was responsible for cleaning and repairing artworks. Today, the lab oversees the conservation of all Western paintings in the Museum’s collections, including medieval panel paintings, Renaissance frescos and easel paintings, and contemporary works.
The lab is committed to furthering the knowledge and understanding of the works of art in its care. Accordingly, technical examinations and research play a fundamental role in conservators’ professional development and ability to maintain the highest possible standards of care. In conjunction with art historians and conservation scientists, painting conservators research the structure of individual paintings, artists' materials and methods, as well as techniques and materials used in conserving paintings. This interdisciplinary approach provides not only invaluable information on artists' original intent, but also insight into how conservation treatments impact the structure and final appearance of works that are treated.
While examination of conservation methodology and technical art history is crucial in informing treatments, paintings conservators are also active in the field of preventive conservation. The lab strives to provide long-term care for paintings by working with research scientists to set appropriate environmental standards for works on exhibit, in storage or traveling to other institutions. When transport is required, paintings conservators advise on crate and microclimate design to ensure the appropriate level of protection for paintings. When necessary, staff members also travel with artworks to ensure proper handling during transit and installation/deinstallation.