Museum & Historic House
Collections Care and Conservation
A Non-renewable Resource
From exhibitions and educational programs to publications and research, the Museum collections fuel almost all Museum activity. Preserving and protecting these collections are the most important ways that we serve our public. Museum collections are primarily a limited and non-renewable resource, having much in common with the resource concerns of the environmental movement in requiring careful management and ongoing conservation. The care of Reynolda House collections is one of the cardinal responsibilities of our staff and Board Members, and is an integral part of the Museum’s mission.
What is Collections Care?
Collections care encompasses everything from maintaining good inventory controls to making sure that proper pest control measures are taken. Today, the idea of preventive care, more commonly known by the term, preventive conservation directs how museum collections are taken care of on a daily basis. Controlling deterioration of art objects through the control of environmental factors that lead to damage is the basis of preventive conservation. This approach means providing optimal climate, storage and exhibitions environments as well as limiting light exposure and handling. For example, if you visit the Museum and do not see one of your favorite works, it may be because it has been rotated off view temporarily in order to reduce light exposure over time.
What is Conservation?
Over time, all objects change or deteriorate as a result of use, accidents, environmental conditions, and natural forces of decay—age. How an object is handled, displayed, and stored can mean the difference between preserving it for many years or for only a short time.
The practice of conservation dates as far back as antiquity. Over the centuries, it has evolved, and by the early 20th century, large museum and public institutions had founded their own conservation studios. As conservators have come to better understand the chemical processes underlying treatments, they have become more conservative in their approach, namely, that every act of treatment should be reversible.
In most cases, conservation treatment on an art object is focused on preventing further deterioration and stabilization of its condition rather than restoring the piece back to its original state. This effort is centered around preserving as much of the artist’s original work as possible rather than trying to recreate the artist’s vision.
In the six-minute video shown below, contract paintings conservator Ruth Cox explores the treatment of the Museum’s work Spring Turning, 1936, by well-known artist Grant Wood. The Museum was awarded a grant from The Henry Luce Foundation for the treatment of this painting along with several other masterpieces in the collection.
How can I help?
By becoming a Museum member, you help support the overall mission of Reynolda House and in turn, support the future of Reynolda’s collections.