The New Conservation Center

Patron Program Committee

“I’m thrilled that our visitors will be able to learn more about what our staff does every day. We look forward to providing them with an enduring appreciation of conservation through a greater level of access to conservators and collections.”
—Matthew Siegal, chair, Conservation and Collections Management

Did you ever wonder what happens to a piece of art between the time it arrives at the Museum and when it is put on display? If you have been to the annual Patron Program event, The Art of Conservation, you have enjoyed a glimpse of the conservation work that staff undertake every day as they care for and study the MFA’s collection. In the future, you will not have to wait for our annual event to get a better understanding of the importance of conservation at the MFA.

In 2020, the Museum opens a new Conservation Center, which consists of collaborative laboratories for paintings, objects, frame and furniture conservation; mount-making and exhibition preparation; and scientific research. For many years the Conservation department has been spread across the Museum, and this new space unifies staff to allow for a more collaborative approach to conservation. The Conservation Center will also be accessible to the public, with glass walls into studios and a public engagement space.

An object that was recently conserved in an ideal collaborative fashion is the fully furnished 17th-century Dutch dollhouse from the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection, on view now in the Art of the Netherlands gallery. Because the dollhouse is fitted within a 17th-century Dutch cabinet, the MFA’s furniture conservators were integral to the preparation of this large, complex object, working closely with the mount-making and exhibition staff to install it safely in the gallery. Objects conservators unpacked and examined more than 200 miniature pieces of silver and furniture and carefully mounted them in the dollhouse. The end result of this teamwork is a seamless, beautiful display of this multi-faceted object in the gallery.

It is exciting to think of a visitor’s experience when objects that require expertise from different specialists, like the Dutch dollhouse, are conserved in the new center. Many of the collaborative laboratories will be visible to the public, allowing visitors to watch as the work unfolds. The public spaces will be outfitted with interpretive content, and collaboration and consultation will happen quickly and efficiently in the unified space.

Interested in learning more about conservation at the MFA? The new Curators Circle for Conservation and Collections launches July 1—as an MFA Patron you are eligible to join! Annual enrollment is $1,500, with funds directly supporting Conservation and Collections Management.