Q1. What is conservation? What is a conservator?
The American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works (AIC) (http://www.conservation-us.org) provides the following definitions: “Conservation encompasses actions taken toward the long-term preservation of cultural property. Conservation activities include examination, documentation, treatment, and preventative care, supported by research and education.”
“Conservators combine an in-depth knowledge of science and art with extensive practical experience to care for and preserve art objects, artifacts, and other items of cultural and historic value.”
Q2. How is conservation treatment different from restoration?
Conservation treatment is a broader term that may involve both the stabilization of the object as well as possible restoration. Stabilization focuses on the aspects of treatment that will minimize future deterioration of the object. Restoration refers to activities that may occur within a conservation treatment that try to bring the object closer to its original appearance.
The associates at HCS, LLC will make every reasonable effort to improve the condition/stability and appearance of your object. We strive to use techniques and/or materials that will be stable over time and not cause future deterioration. Because of this approach, it must be understood by the client that we may not able to be reverse some forms of deterioration and damage because of the nature of the materials affected. It is important to note that in some cases, treatments that focus only on restoration of the appearance can result in additional degradation of the object and are therefore not advisable.
For furniture and frames, restoration of the appearance is performed if the original intent of the maker is fully understood. For works on paper, parchment, and photographs, it may not be possible or ethical to return an object to “like new” condition.
Q3. Do you offer appraisals?
The Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice (http://www.conservation-us.org/ethics) of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works (AIC), sets forth the principles that guide conservation professionals and others who are involved in the care of cultural property. We can provide information on your object such as materials and process identification. However, providing appraisals or assigning monetary value to an object would be considered a conflict of interest.
We recommend that you only solicit appraisals from someone who is a designated appraisal expert. To find an appraiser, please visit the websites of either the Appraisers Association of America at http://www.appraisersassoc.org or the American Society of Appraisers at http://www.appraisers.org. Please contact us for information on local appraisers in the Nashville area. Alternatively, you can contact a museum or historical society in your area to see if they have any recommendations.
Q4. What is the best way to get my items to HCS? (aka Moving & Shipping issues…)
The associates at HCS, LLC. have performed many treatments, especially on furniture and frames, that have been damaged because of improper packing and poor handling during shipment and moving. Antiques may have condition issues such as insect damage, flaking surfaces, loose veneer, or previous repairs that can present serious vulnerabilities during a move. Artwork that is framed with glass is also vulnerable during transport, with the potential for additional damage due to broken glass as well as the potential for crushing of a corner or puncture damage. Thus the method you choose to get the items to us and how an item is packed are very important. Crating and or other recommended methods for packing/shipping art objects can be expensive, but in the long run, an involved conservation treatment to repair moving/shipping damage can be more expensive. Whenever possible, we always recommend that the items be brought to our studio by the owner or if it is oversized, by an art handler. Carefully support an item if it is not framed using a folder made of clean foam board or cardboard that is at least slightly larger than the object. We can provide you with the names of reputable art handlers and art transport companies for larger items. You must contact us prior to the item(s) being shipped/moved so we can coordinate schedules to ensure we will be available to receive the item. Shipping via the US Postal Service, UPS, FedEX, DHL, etc.: It is our understanding that most of the major carriers do not insure fine art while it is being shipped – read the fine print. The exception to this is the US Postal Service. You should check your insurance policy or with your insurance agent to see if your item would be covered during shipment and if they have special requirements such as overnight shipping or shipping via certified or registered mail. It is best to pack an item in a crate, but you can also pack items using the “box within a box” method. Always ship an item at the beginning of the week. If you ship something at the end of a week, it may end up sitting in a non-climate controlled location such as a truck or warehouse over a weekend. Make sure to take high resolution, in focus images of the item before it is packed to create a record of the condition. “Box within a box” packing: The items should be wrapped carefully in a cushioning material then placed into a box that is at least 1-2 inches larger than the item on all sides as well as the front and back. A sheet of thin plywood, impact resistant plastic, or Masonite should be included in front of glass and preferable on the back side as well to prevent puncture damage. Glass should be taped in a grid pattern with an easily removable pressure sensitive tape like painter’s tape for delicate surfaces. This internal box should then be wrapped in a cushioning material and snugly placed into another box that is 2-3 inches larger in all directions Insurance issues when moving: Before moving any fine or decorative art collection, review your art loss policy with your insurance agent and speak with a conservator to advise on condition issues and packing recommendations. Make sure to take high resolution, in focus images of the items prior to a move to create a record of the condition. If an item is large or complicated, you may want to take several images of the object (front, sides, back, etc.). Never rely on the insurance protection offered by most, if not all, general household movers, because it rarely provides high enough coverage limits to properly repair potential damage.
Q5. My document/print/watercolor has faded. Can you restore it?
It may be possible in certain situations to cover over a faded area using colored pastels or pencils to adjust the color balance. However, we will only consider doing this on a limited, case by case basis. There are no chemical treatments that will restore faded colors. It is strongly recommended that manuscript documents be placed into dark storage and a digitally reproduced surrogate be displayed. Faded coloring can be restored digitally for photographs and a reproduction can be displayed. Exposure to light can cause fading of media, such as printing inks, watercolors and writing inks. Pigments or dyes that are used to create the media can vary greatly in their sensitivity to light. Such exposure can also weaken and discolor paper (either causing darkening or lightening). Damage is cumulative and irreversible. Because all light causes damage, it is best to display of these items for limited periods of time. As this is not always possible, keep light levels low and eliminate daylight whenever possible. Light from windows can be reduced with shades, blinds, or curtains. When curtains are not a practical option, light blocking fabric can be used to create a protective cover that can be placed over framed items which can then be removed for viewing, parties, etc. Light sources containing ultraviolet (UV) rays are especially harmful. UV is found in all daylight and in many fluorescent and metal halogen lamps. LED, incandescent or tungsten lights are preferred. Incandescent and tungsten bulbs emit heat, so it is best to place these light sources a distance from the artwork. Filters to screen out UV radiation may be purchased for fluorescent tubes, windows, or cases. UV filtering glass or acrylic can be used in frames. Please note that the UV filtering products may become less effective over time and should be replaced periodically.
Q6. I want to fix/restore my artwork/object, can you give me advice or tell me what to do?
There may be some limited aspects of caring for your object(s) that we would feel comfortable providing advice or instructions. However, we charge our standard studio hourly rate for this time. Please understand that we do not limit our advice to protect “trade secrets.” We limit our advice because repairs conducted by amateurs with the best of intensions can often cause further damage and end up making the conservation treatment more complicated and thus more expensive. We have spent many years learning our trade and perfecting our hand skills; that experience cannot be easily passed along in a brief phone call or email. HCS, LLC associates cannot be held responsible for any damage that might occur from the provided information.