Conservation management - painting collection care
A different approach is needed for a collection of paintings as compared to individual paintings, because it is more difficult to get a clear view of the situation.
It is relatively simple to describe the condition of one individual painting, with a proposal for treatment and advice for the conditions of storage. It is more complicated to get an overall view and general idea of the situation of a collection, and how it should be kept and cared for.
Apart from management of the collection by means of registration, documentation, financial management, planning of expositions, the collection should be maintained and cared for.
We like to deal with the description of the conditional status of your collection in a schematic way. First we make an inventory of the material condition of each painting and present it in reports and graphs. There will be an investigation into environmental aspects and storage conditions of the collection. An advice for preventive conservation will then be based on these reports.
All the data are imported in an MS Access database, which is capable of giving a clear overview on demand. After having calculated the values the database will present a report with a list of priorities for conservation. The values used by the database consist of the level of material urgency and the art historical importance of the collection as estimated by the client. When there are several objects with the same values we give priority in treatment to objects that can be preserved in a relatively short time.
Examples of reports and graphs:
The following reports and graphs were made by the database on the basis of 6785 conditional descriptions of paintings in 55 institutions such as museums, city councils, churches, castles, business establishments, universities and others.
The material composition, the history and the present or past conditions of storage differ greatly for each painting. The earliest painting dates from 1526, the most recent one from 1999.Example: a survey of types of supports in percentages (Dutch).
The graph shows in percentages the urgency of conservation treatment. The circle represents the entire collection.
Red area - very urgent 13%This is the percentage of paintings in the collection that present an acutely worsening situation. Treatment is urgently required. The qualification "very urgent" may refer to peeling of the paint layer or primer.
This means that 13% of 6785 ‐ 882 paintings in this collection are in urgent need of treatment.
Yellow area - urgent 13%The percentage of paintings in the collection that present a situation where decline is imminent. The qualification "urgent" may refer to a strongly soiled surface that is in danger of developing fungus growths, or patches that are applied on to the back of the painting that could cause dent marks.
Green area - illegible 1%The percentage of paintings in the collection that present a condition that is difficult to assess, because the varnish has yellowed strongly for example. The qualification is "illegible".
Grey area - no urgency 73%Part of the collection without urgency.
The report "order of priority" shows the paintings that are in urgent need of treatment, in the order of most urgent to least urgent. The expected duration of treatment is shown in the column to the right.
The paintings that are included in this report are shown in the red, yellow and green field of the graph on material urgency.
This survey consists of 3 graphs: conservation, restoration and making presentable.
Each graph consists of columns, each column represents a group of paintings. Per group of paintings the number of them needing a specific stretch of time for treatment is indicated.
Example: In the graph number conservation the dark blue column stands for a group of 646 paintings that need treatment lasting between 0 and 5 hours. The bottom light green column stands for a group of 40 paintings needing treatment which will last over a hundred hours.
Conservation means the combat of decay after it has been established
Making presentable reducing the elements that cause the worst interferences in the picture
Restoration the treatment aimed at bringing back the art object to a previously defined state by tackling the non-urgent but interfering details
The percentage of paintings in a collection that are damaged by active biological causes, such as live fungi or woodworm.
The degree of biological damage is incorporated separately by us and the database.
Active fungi and woodworm are to be counteracted immediately because of direct danger for the object itself and the risk of contamination for other objects in the collection. Some types of fungus that are found on art objects may even be dangerous for human beings.
Objects with biological damage are to be isolated immediately and treated as fast as possible. When you think you have detected fungus or woodworm, immediate action is needed and we advise you to contact us right away.
There are reports available on damage by biological causes. Click here (Dutch)
for an example.