The conservation department at the Kunstbibliothek is responsible for the preservation of the museum collections. The conservation and restoration of the library’s holdings is overseen by three qualified conservators and a department assistant. They are supported by external conservators, depending on the nature of the project.
A host of conservation and restoration actions are required in preparation for the numerous exhibitions organized by the Kunstbibliothek, as well as in the lending of exhibits to galleries and museums in Germany and abroad, and in day-to-day collections care. All such treatments and measures contribute to preserving the objects for future generations and are executed in accordance with the latest scientific findings and through the use of state-of-the-art technology.
In preparing for exhibitions and the transportation of loans, measures include:
- Submitting official statements on the feasibility of exhibiting certain objects,
- Undertaking conservation and restoration treatments of objects,
- Organizing and handling the transport of objects in collaboration with internationally active fine-art shipping companies,
- Compiling condition reports on the exhibition objects or checking existing reports against the objects’ current condition,
- Producing special fittings suited to each exhibit for use in its careful display (object mounts, documents, matts, and frames),
- Installing special security devices against theft,
- Drawing up strict guidelines regarding relative humidity, temperature, and the nature and intensity of lighting,
- Monitoring the objects’ condition and the adherence to conservation standards while on display and in transit, using the Kunstbibliothek’s own instruments,
- Providing professional advice to manufacturers and suppliers of equipment and items used in the conservation of museum objects as a means of promoting good practical innovation in this field.
The many activities that collections care entails include:
- Drawing up and implementing restoration and conservation treatment strategies for the objects,
- Documenting the object’s prior condition, the proposed treatment’s goals, the steps taken, the materials used, and the final state of the object, all recorded both in writing and through detailed photographs,
- Mounting drawings, prints, and photographs in specially made matts,
- Preparing the protective materials used to hold the various objects or groups of objects, produced on an individual basis either internally or by external suppliers. A variety of storage formats are applied, including many different kinds of envelopes and sleeves, storage boxes, as well as special picture frames,
- Supervising the environmental conditions during display and storage.
Underpinning all work carried out is the demand to meet the specific requirements of the object while respecting its historical integrity. Using the damage assessment report and the individual history of the object as a base, decisions are made as to which actions are necessary. In many cases, technical analysis is required to clarify unresolved questions relating to special material properties. Behind each conservation-related decision lies a profound knowledge of the object’s material properties, the nature of deterioration, as well as the technical possibilities and limits of the proposed treatment. All restorations occur according to the simple basic principle of intervening as little as possible, but just as much as to preserve the exhibit.
The Kunstbibliothek’s conservation department has two rooms for dry treatments, one room for the wet treatment of artefacts, and an office space for compiling reports and documentations.