The Asian Conservation Studio is one of only five such studios in the United States and the oldest outside of Asia. The studio was established in 1907 within the department of Asiatic Art during Okakura Kakuzo’s curatorship. Headed by a Japanese mounter named Motokichi Tamura, its initial mission was to preserve Japanese paintings.
In 1981, a generous donation, made by Carl A. Weyerhaeuser Charitable Trusts in honor of Kojiro and Harriet Tomita, allowed the installation of a new studio, complete with tatami matting (traditional Japanese floor covering). In 1995, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation endowed funding for conservation materials, equipment and the renovation of a workspace for treating Chinese paintings. In 1998, the studio became part of the department of Conservation and Collections Management.
Asian Conservation cares for the collections of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Himalayan, Indian and Islamic paintings. Their formats vary greatly and include handscrolls, hanging scrolls, screens, panels, miniatures, albums, bound and unbound manuscripts. The studio is also responsible for Japanese printed books, 20,000 postcards and an estimated 60,000 prints. The two-dimensional works on paper and silk serviced by Asian Conservation are now all housed under the department of Art of Asia, Oceania and Africa.
Japanese paintings conservators work on the floor at low tables on tatami mats using several traditional tools and techniques. The low tables allow easy manipulation of large paintings during treatment, and tatami is a superb drying medium for damp work. While making full use of traditional methods, the studio also takes advantage of recent innovations and scientific advancements. This approach allows staff to preserve the integrity of paintings, drawings, and prints from all the diverse cultures that come under the heading of Asian art.
While Asian conservation is likely the most underrepresented of all conservation disciplines, as the training and skills required are highly specific, the studio at the Museum includes conservators with specializations including Chinese and Japanese paintings, Indian and Islamic miniatures, woodblock prints and Tibetan paintings.
Treatment and remounting of a Ming dynasty Daoist hanging scroll from the sixteenth century
Treatment and remounting of an eighteenth century Buddhist hanging scroll by Hanabusa Itchō