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What is the difference between conservation and restoration?
  • Over the past 60+ years, conservation has developed as an ethically guided field, supplanting the long history of art restoration.  The aim of a conservation treatment is to preserve and restore the artist or maker's intent while stabilizing the object to be enjoyed for future generations.  Restorers often treat to repair, clean and/or minimize the traces of time, sometimes disregarding the historical context, the object's original materials and media, and the object's longevity.  Conservators, on the other hand, abide by a code of ethics.  We use conservation quality materials that pose no long term harm to the original object, that have good aging characteristics and that aim to be reversible by future conservators.   Conservators are guided by current scientific and technical research and fully document their treatments. 


  • Today, most conservators are trained in formal graduate programs that require strong hand skills, and a foundation in Art History, Chemistry, and the materials and techniques of artistic works.



How long will my treatment take?
  • Minor treatments, such as the repair of a small edge tear or removal of old hinges, may be able to be done at the time of consultation.  Although most treatments may take from 4 - 6 months to complete depending on the current studio workflow, we will work with the client as best possible to meet any rush deadlines. 
How much will it cost?
  • The treatment of a single object can take from 1/2 an hour to over 25 hours, depending on the condition of the object and the needs of the client.  Some objects may require only stabilization, while other objects may require full treatment including aesthetic compensation, such as in-painting of lost media or stain reduction.  We charge an hourly rate of $100/hr, billed in quarter hour increments.  A full day of work onsite (7 + hours), or daily rate, is discounted to $650/day.  Non-treatment consultation or research is billed at $80.00/hr.  Travel time for site visits beyond the greater Philadelphia area, or multiple day on-site projects, is charged at $75.00/hr.



Should I use gloves to handle my objects?

Works on Paper - Using gloves with paper objects can inhibit your handling, catch on torn edges, or inadvertently crease a corner.  Typically use clean hands - freshly washed and fully dry - to handle works on paper.  This includes artwork, letters and manuscripts, documents, books, etc.   Handle the object in the margin only where there is no media.  Whenever possible, handle artwork on a secondary support - like a thick paper or stiff cardboard - rather than touching the artwork itself.  Very brittle objects or objects mounted on thick deteriorated boards should always be handled on a stiff secondary support.


  • The Exception:  some sensitive artwork, such as the very matte ink of a screenprint printed to edge, should be handled with clean white gloves as the oil from our fingers can affect the media.


Photographs - Use clean, white cotton gloves to handle photographs.  Oils from our fingers, no matter how clean, can cause stains on a photographic image.  The stain may not be visible right away, but may appear over time.



How important is proper housing and storage for works on paper and photographs?

Paper materials are porous - they react quickly to excessive moisture or heat.  Paper is also sensitive to light (oxidation) and acids from either the paper itself, or from contact with acidic materials or pollutants (acid-hydrolysis).  When we put all these factors together, paper deterioration is accelerated causing discoloration and embrittlement of the paper.   Media and inks may also be damaged too.  Works on paper like best to be housed (i.e. storage materials) next to materials that are alkaline, typically > pH8.   When housed next to acidic materials, such as older matboard, cardboard, newsprint and even wood, the paper will tend to weaken and yellow or darken, often becoming brittle and stiff. 


  • The Exception: Some organic and aniline dyes, such as those used on Japanese prints, may be alkaline sensitive.  Even though the paper support may appreciate an alkaline housing, the media may be adversely affected.  Consult with a conservator to determine appropriate housing for your collection if you suspect alkaline sensitive dyes. 


  • Paper materials should be kept at moderate temperature and humidity levels.  Ideally temperature and relative humidity should be around 65°F and 50% RH.   However, in the real world, particularly for private clients or small institutions with limited budgets, keep your paper materials in your own living or work space - avoid storing paper objects in attics or basements or uninsulated garages/sheds.  Don't store the objects next to a radiator or vent, or below a cold or sunny window.  Seasonal, gradual shifts in temperature and humidity, within a set range, across a year is often unavoidable - the goal is to avoid sudden and rapid shifts in temp and RH as best possible. 


  • Light damage also causes darkening or bleaching (depending on the paper), embrittlement of paper supports, and irreversible fading of media and inks.   Use UV-filtering plexiglass or glass whenever possible for exhibition.  Avoid displaying your artwork across from a window in direct sunlight.  If possible, rotate the objects on display. 


Photographs are made up of an image material (silver, albumen, platinum, etc.) on typically a paper support (except for cased photographs, tintypes, and others).  This image material is very sensitive to finger oils, pollution, poor housing materials, moisture, and light.   When choosing housing materials for photographs, look for interleaving paper, folders, and boxes that have passed the PAT test (Photographic Activity Test).  PAT is a standard label indicating that the housing material does not contain any contaminants that can adversly affect image material over time, both through direct contact and as off-gasing in an enclosed space (such as a box or drawer)   


  • The Exception: Cyanotypes and blueprints react poorly to alkaline materials.  Whenever possible, use pH neutral interleaving papers and folders. 


  • Like paper objects, photographs - traditional and digital - should follow the same temperature, RH, and light level guidelines as stated above.  Store negatives separate from paper-based photographs.  Store cased photographs (daguerrotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes) in alkaline paper sleeves in an alakline box.  Store glass plate negatives in individual alkaline sleeves and upright, rather than stacked, in a flip-top alkaline box.




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