As a public institution, one of the Museum's primary obligations is the preservation of the collections for future generations. The Conservation Department is entrusted with this responsibility and is committed to the preservation of this irreplaceable cultural legacy. The conservators dedicate their time to the examination and treatment of works of art, materials research, education, and preservation activities throughout the Museum.
The Museum recently documented and conserved 125 firearms from the Kretzschmar von Kienbusch Collection of Arms and Armor. Artistic and technological masterpieces, the objects were collected by New York businessman and philanthropist Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch and bequeathed to the Museum in 1977. Mainly used by noblemen for hunting and target-shooting, the firearms include long guns, rifles, and pistols from leading schools of gun-making in Europe, and range in date from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries.
Until recently, the Museum had just 2,774 square feet of storage for its holdings of modern and contemporary design and craft furniture, insufficient for the current number of objects and severely limiting room for new acquisitions. Thanks to generous funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Museum made significant improvements with the acquisition and installation of new compact shelving in 2013–14.
This project is intended to address the need for more accurate and consistent documentation of the materials and techniques used to create works of art on paper. No detailed guide for this currently exists. The guidelines presented in this publication are designed to provide conservators, curators, registrars, catalogers and others charged with describing prints and drawings with a step by step approach for describing all aspects of the manufacture of these works.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s Diana has adorned the top of the Museum’s Great Stair Hall for more than eighty years. Created in 1892–93 as a gilded weathervane for the tower of New York’s Madison Square Garden, the beloved sculpture recently underwent a remarkable transformation when conservators repaired and preserved its copper structure and restored its original gold leaf finish.
IMLS- National Leadership Grant to the Conservation Department, Philadelphia Museum of Art: Federally compliant protective clear coatings for metals - October 1, 2008 – September 30, 2011
In 2011, the Museum’s Furniture and Woodwork conservators made an exciting discovery at Mount Pleasant. Their research revealed that the original finish on the wainscot and wood trim in the first floor stair hall was wood graining.
The examination and conservation treatment of a group of important handheld firearms was recently made possible with generous funding from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Twenty firearms dating from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries were carefully disassembled, and both internal and external components were examined for condition problems. A small group received conservation treatment, with the remaining firearms to be treated in the future.
The following pages will provide an on-line resource for information about the recent investigation and examination of the surviving buildings, current and past conservation projects as well the varied and layered historical narratives of those associated with the history of Mount Pleasant.
The conservation of The Gross Clinic, frequently described as the most important American painting of the nineteenth century, can only be described as thrilling and daunting. What were the artist’s intentions? Can we really recover the appearance of the painting when it was new? Should we even try? Or should we accept the changes in a painting over time as part of the history of the object?
The following is a summary of the collaborative research by the Museum’s scientific, conservation and curatorial staff as presented in the paper, Figdor and the Medici: notes on the collection and display of Italian Renaissance furniture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to 1930, including a technical study of a fifteenth-century painted chest’, Furniture History vol. XLV (2009)
In January 2008, the first of over 30,000 objects from the Costume and Textiles Conservation department moved through the doors of the new storage facility in the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building.
Works of art made of metal are decorated through a variety of methods, which are referred to as finishing techniques. These techniques can be classified into two major categories: chemical or physical. This publication describes several finishing methods along with a brief history of their use.
This important clock from the Museum's collection required treatment to return its disfigured surfaces to their bright original appearance.
Mount Pleasant survives as one of the greatest American houses of the eighteenth century, a testament to the skill and ambition of colonial builders and clients. Remarkably, the estate remains largely intact on its original site as an ensemble of buildings within a landscape that offers the parklike view and river prospect first enjoyed by its original owners.
The goals of this project were to reveal the brilliant colors and artistry beneath the accumulated soot of a Tibetan altar, as well as reconstruct the altar, create a structural support, and explore both the altar's age and the artisans’ materials and techniques.
Long thought to be a fragment cut from a larger work, examination has shown that this painting was in fact originally made on a small, hastily prepared scrap of wood.
One of the Museum's most significant printed textiles, a bedcover printed by George Ormerod, was extremely fragile and arrived at the Museum with numerous losses.
A fundamental responsibility of the Museum is the prevention of deterioration of art and artifacts through control of the environment in storage and exhibition. Preventive conservation entails storing, displaying, handling and maintaining a museum's collections in ways that promote long term stability and do not lead to deterioration.
From old master prints and drawings to large-scale contemporary works that incorporate elements of collage or photographic techniques, works of art on paper encompass prints, drawings and photographs in seemingly unlimited variety.
A Sharp Eye on Nature, (2001), is a half-hour documentary presenting conservators’ exciting discovery of 19th-century American artist Thomas Eakins’s use of projected photographs in making paintings.
This multiphase effort has provided a safe and effective storage area for the Museum’s East Asian art collection. The project involved rehousing approximately 4,000 objects.
After being displayed outdoors in an urban-industrial environment for over 60 years, Philadelphia’s version of Rodin’s The Thinker showed the effects of "acid rain" and particulate deposition common in such atmospheres.