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The Old National Gallery owns one of the most comprehensive European collections of paintings and sculptures from the 'long' 19th century, covering the period from the French Revolution to the First World War. The paintings cared for at this museum are on both canvas and solid supports such as wood, plywood or cardboard. In addition, there are the carved or stuccoed, mostly historic frames with various painted, coloured and metal surfaces. The sculpture collection includes the works made of stone, bronze, plaster, terracotta and wax.
The main responsibility of the paintings conservation department concerns the preservation and maintenance of the collection. Works on display are regularly examined for their condition. Simultaneously, the conservation department works on an ongoing project to conduct a survey of the collection in storage. It is examined to establish a priority list of its conservation needs and preservation requirements. Conservation treatments that are conducted on individual works are carried out according to the modern knowledge and, in some cases, in co-operation with the universities. Comprehensive treatment projects such as the complex repair of a split timber panel belonging to a painting by Eduard Schleich not only enriched the displayable collection but also broadened art-technological and conservation knowledge. Some of the projects are conducted with support of the Rathgen-Forschungslabor (Rathgen Research Laboratory) that is available for scientific examination and sampling. Beyond these activities, the restoration department takes responsibility for the wide range of supporting tasks involved with loans. This includes the condiction assessment of artworks requested for loan which determines whether they can travel at all; as needed, the artworks receive remedial treatment and are subjected to other preparatory steps involving the application of new fittings, glazing and packaging. Taken together, these measures prepare each artwork in a customized way for their loan travel. One other important aspect of loan preparation is the preparation of condition reports that are detailed records that include digital and other documentation. The assessment of artworks also has lead to the establishment of a list that allows museum staff to base their loan decisions on criteria that ensure the protection of particularly fragile or rare works. Temporary exhibitions at the museum, as well as those taking place in co-operation with the foundation all receive the same conservation attention.
On 12 and 13 December 2006, the Old National Gallery hosted a seminar on the bonding of cracks in canvas paintings for the National Museums in Berlin. This constituted one of the ongoing programs that foster the exchange and transfer of knowledge between conservators and supports the dissemination of new developments within the museums.
The paintings conservation department offers internships as well as the supervision of diploma theses, preferentially those that evolve in connection with the treatment of an artwork from the collection.