Conservation

The Ackland’s conservation program is essential to its mission to “collect, preserve, and present great art to educate, inspire, and engage.” The Museum’s conservation facility is equipped for the full range of paper conservation treatments. Typical treatments include the repair of tears, reduction of stains and discolorations, consolidation of flaking paint, removal of deleterious mounts and tapes, as well as paper analysis, which can be useful in dating works of art. The Ackland contracts with outside conservation specialists for the treatment of paintings and sculpture.

Check out “The Paper Docs” in the fall 2007 edition of Endeavors Magazine for a feature story about conservation at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

About the Conservator

Grace White joined the Ackland as its conservator in 2015, overseeing the conservation program for the Museum’s over 19,000 works of art in all media. She specializes in the treatment of works on paper—prints, drawings, watercolors, and photographs. Grace is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation.

In addition to carrying out conservation treatments, she examines works of art to determine media and condition, advises on acquisition and loan decisions, and conducts educational lab tours for college students, school children, docents, and other groups. She also provides conservation advice to other arts institutions by appointment.

Read about Grace’s work in this “Carolina People” Q&A in the University Gazette!

Photo of art conservator Grace White in the conservation lab at the Ackland Art Museum

Guidelines for Private Conservation Projects

Conservation treatments should be performed only by a qualified conservator. For more information, visit the website of the American Institute for Conservation.

Click here for a list of select conservators and appraisers who have made themselves known to the Museum as willing to conserve and appraise works of art for a fee, but the Museum staff is not able to verify their expertise. The following list is not an endorsement of these particular appraisers, nor a guarantee of the accuracy of their work.

For additional information regarding conservation and finding local conservators, please refer to www.conservation-us.org. For finding information regarding appraisers, please refer to www.isa-appraisers.org, www.appaisersassoc.org, and www.appriasers.org.

Caring for Your Works of Art on Paper at Home

Paper is subject to damage from a number of environmental conditions, including heat, light, humidity, dirt, pollution, acidity, and improper handling.

The ideal conditions for preserving works on paper are to store them in the dark at a cold temperature with constant relative humidity of 50%. Clearly, these ideals must be compromised if paper artifacts are to be enjoyed as works of art. Proper matting, framing, and display allow the collector to enjoy art works while still preserving them for future generations.

A drawing sits on a wood table in a conservation lab at the Ackland Art Museum

Framing

It is essential to choose a professional framer who is knowledgeable, skillful, and ethical. Ask local museums and conservators for recommendations and ask framers for specifics about the highest quality work he or she can provide. Insist on the following standards and be prepared to pay for the high quality materials and time-consuming procedures your artwork requires.

Matting and Hinging

Before being framed, works on paper must be safely hinged onto acid-free, lignin-free, archival mat board, either 100% rag or alpha cellulose.

Works on paper should not be in contact with any tape, rubber cement, animal glue, synthetic white glue, or dry-mount tissue.

The work of art should be attached to the back mat by means of hinges or archival photo corners. It should never be attached directly to the back mat; this ensures that in the future the work of art may be removed from the mat without damage. The safest hinges are made of high quality Japanese paper, attached with a cooked paste made from purified starch. Care must be taken to dry the hinges flat so that the artwork is not distorted.

Glazing

Glazing protects an artwork from abrasion and dirt. Acrylic sheeting, such as Plexiglas, is generally preferred to glass; it is lighter in weight and much less likely to break than glass. However, acrylic should not be used with very powdery charcoal or pastel drawings, as the static charge of the plastic can be strong enough to pull media particles from the drawing, forming a film on the glazing.

Ultraviolet-filtering glazing may be used to protect the work of art from the most damaging wavelengths of light, but deterioration and fading are also caused by visible light, so limiting overall exposure to light is still important.

The window mat should provide an air space between the face of the work of art and the glazing material in the frame. This separation will help to prevent burnishing or mildew on the surface of the art. If, for aesthetic reasons, a window mat is not desired, the framer should devise a “spacer” in the frame to maintain this separation between art and glazing.

Hanging Works of Art

When hanging works of art, one should avoid walls that receive direct sunlight or bright daylight. Incandescent (tungsten) light is much less damaging than fluorescent light or daylight, because it has a much lower component of ultraviolet radiation. Further measures that may be taken to reduce total light exposure are to keep blinds drawn and lights turned off whenever the room is unoccupied. For extremely light-sensitive works, individual frames may be covered when they are not being viewed

Never hang works of art above radiators or in other spots with localized heating. Especially avoid walls above fireplaces and stoves, where smoke will cause additional damage.

Likewise, never hang artwork on a damp wall. Humidity above 65% can promote mold growth. The consistent use of air-conditioners or dehumidifiers will reduce this risk. Extra layers of matboard the back of the frame will help to buffer the environment inside the frame from short-term extremes of relative humidity.