Collection Care & Conservation
Responsibility for the preservation of Winterthur's vast museum and library collections falls to the Conservation Department, a team of 21 conservators, scientists, conservation assistants, preventive conservation aids, and lighting specialists who manage every aspect of collection care.
Conservation is the discipline dedicated to preserving objects for the study and enjoyment of future generations. It includes:
- Careful study and assessment to understand the history, fabrication, and chemical nature of each object
- Stabilization of an object's condition to slow or prevent further deterioration from damaging factors like excessive light, high humidity, poor storage, or careless handling
- Steps to preserve an object and move it closer to its original appearance by mending broken components, removing damaging accretions, and replacing or inpainting missing elements
- Use of stable, reversible materials and documentation of every treatment to insure that future generations will be able to clearly understand the history of the object and continue its preservation
Conservators specialize in a particular material and acquire intimate knowledge about each object they study and treat. Specialties at Winterthur include labs devoted to paintings, paper, textiles, objects (metals, ceramics, glass and organic materials), furniture, preservation housing, documentation, books and library materials.
Conservation scientists in the Scientific Research and Analysis Lab at Winterthur have access to sophisticated instruments to study the composition, structure and authenticity of objects.
Preventive Conservation Aides at Winterthur are responsible for monitoring and maintaining the collection including specialized dusting and vacuuming techniques, environmental monitoring and integrated pest management. They also install and maintain lighting in the collections.
The Conservation Lighting and Design Coordinator designs the lighting elements that allow visitors to see and enjoy the collection while minimizing the damage that light can cause.
Conservation in Action
See and hear conservators at work in these revealing videos of conservation at Winterthur.
Winterthur offers tours of the Conservation Department to individuals the first Wednesday of each month and to groups scheduling a visit through Visitor Services. To reserve a space for you or your group or obtain more information, please call 800.448.3883, 302.888.4600, or TTY 302.888.4907.
Winterthur offers a free conservation clinic each month (September–May) to which the public can bring objects for an assessment of their condition and recommendations on their care. For information or an appointment, please call 302.888.4786. Sorry, no appraisals or authentications are given.
Conservation & Education
Conservators need a broad background in chemistry, studio art, craft practices, and cultural context such as art history and archeology. Most conservators entering the field hold masters degrees in conservation while conservation assistants usually come from undergraduate programs in related fields and are trained by the conservators with whom they work.
Winterthur is proud to co-sponsor, with the University of Delaware, the Art Conservation Master's Degree Program. One of only six graduate programs in conservation in North America, this three-year Master's-degree program educates and trains future conservation professionals to carry out the examination, analysis, stabilization, and treatment of art and artifacts. Students spend two years in the Conservation labs at Winterthur and a final year as an intern in another institution. Graduates of the program work in major cultural institutions throughout the United States and Europe.
Book about Caring for Your Collections
Winterthur's Conservation staff has written a manual for the public to use in caring for their collections. The manual provides readers with practical advice on how to care for the objects they value and when to consult with a conservation professional. The Winterthur Guide to Caring for Your Collection is available in the Winterthur Bookstore and online.