Conservation/Treatment History

DEFINITION

Procedures or actions that a work has undergone to repair, conserve, or stabilize it.

SUBCATEGORIES

DESCRIPTION
TYPE
DATE
AGENT
PLACE
REMARKS
CITATIONS

DISCUSSION

A work of art may undergo conservation or restoration treatments at many different times. Each of these procedures should be documented in a separate occurrence of this category.

In the case of modern treatments, many details will be available. For historical treatments, it may be possible to reconstruct what was done to the object on the basis of an examination of it. Opinions may differ about the extent of historical interventions in the condition of a work of art.

Source

The conservation profession uses many technical analytical processes. Results can sometimes be conveyed or summarized verbally, or in a written report; in other instances, a researcher may need to consult visual documentation, such as a radiograph or infrared photograph. Scholars may find it beneficial to know what tests and methods have been applied and what documents are available for consultation, even though the records themselves may not be immediately available.

USES

Conservation or treatment history is of interest to the researcher because it may explain changes in the work's appearance over time, or indicate areas of a work that are not original. It also provides additional information about the process of creating a work that may not be apparent from a visual examination alone. For example, the color and nature of the ground of a painting might be discovered during the process of inpainting losses under the microscope.

References to a conservation-specific file containing detailed information about treatments provide the scholar with avenues for future research.

Conservation treatment may alter the appearance of a work so much that a reconsideration of its art-historical meaning is required. This was the case when the cleaning of the Sistine Chapel ceiling revealed colors that were much more brilliant than had previously been thought to have been in use in the Renaissance.

ACCESS

This information may be used comparatively, when studying a group of objects. For instance, a scholar may wish to compare the appearance of a work that has been conserved with one that has not, to assess changes to a work over time.

RELATIONSHIPS

Information about how the artist made the work is recorded in MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES, and in FACTURE.

Assessments of the overall physical state of the work of art, and any non-interventionist examinations of it, are recorded in CONDITION/ EXAMINATION HISTORY.

The documents of the conservation or treatment procedure are recorded in RELATED TEXTUAL REFERENCES or RELATED VISUAL DOCUMENTATION.


Conservation/Treatment History - Description

DEFINITION

Prose description of procedures a work has undergone to repair, conserve, or stabilize it.

EXAMPLES

The painting was cleaned and restored in 1949.

Aggressive intervention was necessary because of the precarious state of lower section, caused by saturation during the flood and subsequent loss of surface due to efflorescence of salts and oil. Treatment included rapid, controlled drying. Strong heat was applied to back of wall, causing water and salts to recede; process continued for 20 days. Fresco and sinopia were detached from wall by strappo technique in January, 1967; they were mounted on separate supports of polyester resin reinforced with glass fiber. Deposits of mud and oil were removed, along with nineteenth century repaint in 1968; blistered sections of original surface were reattached, most extensively in lower right of fresco. Fresco was cleaned with solution of ammonia and distilled water in 1989.

Despite spot tests and small poultices with increasingly strong solvents, the discolored surface coating was rendered insoluble. Consequently, in order to return sculptural balance to the relief, the coating on the lower areas of the carving, where darker, was thinned mechanically, at first, beneath a binocular microscope. The coating was ultimately thinned only sufficiently to equal in tonality its remnant at the upper part of the relief.

"The object was remounted on a new backboard for The Label Show using existing hardware with new "Volara" padding and silicone tubing. It was then returned to its previous mount with the original hardware again and replacement padding of the same materials." [1]

DISCUSSION

This subcategory comprises a narrative description of the procedures applied to the work of art to stabilize or otherwise repair or conserve it. Some courses of treatment may be composed of many steps or stages. This subcategory describes any changes in the appearance or condition of the work as a result of conservation or restoration treatment. There may be multiple conservation reports associated with an object over time.

The techniques in use in conservation science are complex and often difficult for the nontechnical audience. A description of the treatment of an object provides a summary of a technical process in a format and language familiar to researchers.

ACCESS

The author, date, and other information about the conservation or treatment should be indexed in other subcategories of CONSERVATION/TREATMENT HISTORY.


Conservation/Treatment History - Type

DEFINITION

The name of the conservation treatment or technical/scientific restoration procedure performed on the work of art.

EXAMPLES

inpainting
repainting
restoration
relining
preservation
cleaning
repair
washing
mounting
consolidation
stabilizing

DISCUSSION

This subcategory should make use of single terms drawn from an established controlled vocabulary that describe treatments performed on a work.

Source

Conservation treatments are documented in formal reports kept by conservators and found in museum or gallery records. Conservation information, especially historical data, may be found in published or unpublished sources.

USES

The information in this subcategory allows the researcher to identify the treatments a work has received and to locate works treated in the same way. For example, a researcher may wish to examine all paintings by Michelangelo that have been recently cleaned, in order to compare their color to that of the Sistine Ceiling.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of a controlled vocabulary is recommended, such as the AAT (especially the Processes and Techniques hierarchy).


Conservation/Treatment History - Agent

DEFINITION

The name of the person who performed a specific conservation procedure, together with his or her role or title and institutional affiliation, if appropriate.

EXAMPLES

Peter Klein, Ordinariat für Holzbiologie, Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
Dino Dini, restorer, Florence, Tuscany, Italy
Joseph V. Columbus, textile conservator, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
unknown restorer

DISCUSSION

This subcategory records the name and institutional affiliation of the person[s] who treated or examined an object. Note that the person often comes to the work of art rather than vice versa.

While a full name may be available for modern treatments, it may not be known who restored or treated a work in the past.

Source

This information is drawn from documentation relating to the conservation or restoration of a work, which includes formal reports, other published materials, and unpublished material found in the files of museums and galleries. Historical information may also be found in published and unpublished sources.

USES

The information in this subcategory allows a user to find all works treated by a particular conservator.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of consistent forms of personal and corporate names is recommended. See for example, Canadiana Authorities, LC Name Authorities, and ULAN. Controlled vocabulary or consistent syntax should be used to indicate "unknown hands." See CREATION - CREATOR - IDENTITY.


Conservation/Treatment History - Date

DEFINITION

The date on which a particular procedure or treatment was performed.

EXAMPLES

May 2, 1954
before 1952
1993
between 1700 and 1798
16th century
Summer 1956

DISCUSSION

A single date should be recorded according to a standard format. Various levels of certainty will have to be accommodated, as specific dates will be known for modern treatments, but historically, it may only be known that a work was restored in the nineteenth century.

USES

The date of a particular treatment may assist the researcher in assessing a work's current condition (see CONDITION/EXAMINATION HISTORY) or in evaluating how its appearance may have changed over time.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

Dates can be recorded in two ways: as text (illustrated in the above examples), and as two integers indicating the beginning of a date span and the end of a date span (dates BCE can be stored as negative values). Rigidly controlled format is required to allow retrieval. The use of date guidelines is recommended, such the AAT Date Guidelines or ISO 8601: Dates & Times.


Conservation/Treatment History - Place

DEFINITION

The location, studio, or laboratory where the procedure or treatment was performed.

EXAMPLES

Conservation Analytical Laboratory, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

DISCUSSION

This subcategory indicates the actual place where the conservation procedure took place. (The conservator often comes to the work of art rather than vice versa.)

Names should be recorded in a standardized manner and should include both the institution and the geographic place name.

While full details may be available about recent treatments, it may not be known where a work was treated in the past.

Information about place can be drawn from the documents of the treatment itself, which include formal reports, most often unpublished, found in the files of conservators, museums, and galleries.

USES

Allows the user to identify works treated at a particular place.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of authorities for place names and corporate names is recommended, such as BGN, Canadiana Authorities, TGN, and LC Name Authorities.


Conservation/Treatment History - Remarks

DEFINITION

Any additional notes about the treatment of a work of art, including the interpretation of results or the source of information.


Conservation/Treatment History - Citations

DEFINITION

References to the sources of information about the condition or examination of a work or art, including published and unpublished material.

__________

ENDNOTES

1 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Department of Objects Conservation and Scientific Research, Treatment Report, Donatello's Madonna of the Clouds, May 3,1994.