What is Art Conservation?

Art conservation is a field that includes all activities carried out for the long-term preservation of culturally and socially significant objects and artifacts, also known as cultural heritage. It encompasses preventive care and interventive actions, or treatment.

What is an Art Conservator?

Art Conservators are akin to cultural heritage doctors. By prescribing preventive activities, such as protection from light or temperature fluctuations, and treatments for acute problems, such as breaks, tears, soiling, and discolored previous restorations, conservators protect and preserve the art, objects, and historic sites that tell the story of our lives and that around us. Treatments might include stabilization, cleaning, and visual restoration. Art conservators treat all objects with the same level of reverence whether they have monetary value, historical significance, or personal meaning. One of the most important things that conservators do in their practice is to document in writing and photographs how they have intervened to change an object. Another important tenet of our practice is to use stable, long-lasting materials and carry out actions that are reversible in the future as much as possible. Conservators study studio art, art history, and chemistry to understand the theory behind their work and intern with other conservators to improve their skills.

What can I expect when working with Art Solutions Lab?

We are dedicated to open communication and collaboration in our work. When you get in touch with us about your conservation project we can chat about your options and how our services might benefit you and your object. If your project would be better served by a conservator of a different specialty, we’ll refer you to them. Photos of your object and the problem areas are extremely helpful in determining our ability to help you.

We will need to see your object in person before we can provide a proposal for work and a cost estimate. Once you review the proposal, if you decide not to go ahead with the work we will charge a $250-300 fee for the time and thought put into that process. This fee is included in the treatment estimate, not charged in addition, and increases if we review more than one object. The estimate will give a range from the low to the high end of what we anticipate the work to cost.

What do I get for the proposal and estimate fee?

As part of the fee, you will receive a report outlining the condition of your object, a description of the materials and manufacturing methods, an outline of the proposed treatment, and any annotated images that are useful for outlining the problematic conditions. Proposals are good for 180 days or if the condition has changed dramatically.

How much do you charge?

A conservator’s favorite answer to any question is, it depends. We have set fees for work on-site, which is charged by the half or full-day. Work outside the Portland metro area that does not require an overnight stay is charged at a slightly higher rate. Work that we carry out in our lab is charged by the hour in 15-minute increments. For those who seek information and are on a budget, we offer a variety of consultation options.

Can you tell me how much my object is worth?

Unfortunately, no. You will need to contact an appraiser to find out the monetary value of your artwork. Local arts organizations can usually help with up-to-date contact information for appraisers.

What types of art do you work on?

We provide general care and assessment services for all types of cultural heritage. In regards to treatment and interventive work, we specialize in three-dimensional objects of a wide variety of materials. If you’re not sure what your object is made from, feel free to contact us and we will help you figure it out.

The types of work we treat include:

  • sculpture (indoor +outdoor)
  • decorative arts
  • functional + historical objects (eg. basketry and tools)
  • collectibles (eg. tiles and dolls)
  • found objects
  • painted sculpture
  • archaeological materials

The materials that we treat include:

  • metal (eg. silver, bronze, and steel)
  • ceramics from low-fire to porcelain
  • glass
  • stone
  • plaster + cement
  • plastics
  • leather + hide
  • bone + ivory
  • shell
  • wood + plant materials
  • paper objects
  • some textiles
  • mixed media