What do museum conservators do?

Conservators know the in-house collection objects, their condition, used materials and special features intimately. They are responsible for the care and long-term preservation of the collection. Artworks must be displayed and stored in appropriate conditions, and these must be planned separately for each object. Because conservators know the optimal conditions for various objects, they are valuable assets in the planning and monitoring of these conditions.

Conservators also help to ensure that both in-house collection objects and loaned artworks are packed and transported appropriately. Their duties also include examining the condition of artworks, conservation, documentation, research and maintenance.

Why are museums dimly lit?

The quality and amount of light affects artworks. In general, both visible light and the invisible part of light – ultraviolet radiation – cause damage to artworks. The most susceptible are works on paper. Their colours fade, and the paper becomes fragile and discoloured. Long-term exposure to dim light damages objects as much as short-term exposure to bright light. However, showcasing collections is the core duty of museums, and to ensure that fragile artworks will survive for a long time, dim light is used in museums.

Why are paintings and frames cleaned?

Paintings collect dirt over the years. Also the layer of varnish protecting the painting may become discoloured with age. Therefore, the once vivid colours become dull, and some details may also become blurred. If your painting requires cleaning, you should seek the services of a specialist conservator, as the layers in your painting might be in danger of flaking off. Some layers of colour might also dissolve, which would be disastrous for the painting.

Art conservators are trained to examine and understand the structural work in paintings. They can assess the required conservation treatments reliably and always use substances that will not harm the painting.

The material of a picture frame and the used treatments affect the way the frame reacts to different cleaning methods. The surface of a frame with distemper dissolves when exposed to the tiniest amount of moisture. Moisture leaves traces on gilded frames, and gold leaf may even fall off. The only fairly safe way to remove dust from a picture frame is a lightly applied duster. If this fails to remove the dirt, you should contact a specialist conservator.

How do I find a conservator?

Conservators work both in museums and in the private sector. National, regional and local museums can assist you in locating a professional conservator. You can also use the website of the Nordic Association of Conservators’ Finnish Association to search for conservators by specialty area. The association’s members are professionally trained and follow the international professional guidelines and agreements of the European Confederation of Conservator-Restorers’ Organisations.