Saving Superman

Saving Superman

When Joe went down into the basement of his girlfriend’s house to repair a leaking pipe, he would have never guessed that within hours he would be at The Conservation Center’s doors with a striking, but severely deteriorated, painting of Superman in hand. It was wet, stained, moldy, and even had insects living behind the frame.  Fortunately, The Center’s team was at the ready to stop this kryptonite before it could do its worst.

Pigment of the Month- White Pigments

Pigment of the Month- White Pigments

This month we continue our “Pigment of the Month” series with a look at white pigments - a seemingly simple color with surprising variety of choices. As every painter knows, white is a critical color on any artist’s palette. If you ask a painter if they have a favorite white pigment, you are likely to get an impassioned answer as to why they prefer Titanium, Zinc, or Flake White, among others. They might even tell you about how they wish they could find Lead White. But how is it possible there is such a difference with white pigments?

The Christmas Tricycle

The Christmas Tricycle

As we move through the holiday season, our focus turns to family dinners, quiet snowfalls, and the joyful challenge of finding the perfect gift; the gift that will be treasured for years to come. And when the years take their toll on those items, we here at The Conservation Center consider it a special privilege to help in preserving those family treasures. This holiday season, we share with you an item brought to The Center by Mary, who reached out to see if it would be possible to restore one of her favorite childhood Christmas gifts: a circa 1964 Murray tricycle.

Oak Park Snow Scene

Oak Park Snow Scene

Although Chicago may be without the standard layer of snow for this time of the year, we here are The Conservation Center are lucky enough to have beautiful images around to remind us of a pristine snowfall. A client recently brought in just such a painting, though it wasn’t quite the impeccable snow scene it once was. Years of grime build-up and thick, discolored varnish had turned the crisp white snowfall into a dingy, brown landscape. But with some time, patience, and careful chemistry, Senior Paintings Conservator Amber Smith was able to bring the original colors back to this Oak Park snow scene.

Pigment of the Month: Emerald Green

Pigment of the Month: Emerald Green

This month we continue our “Pigment of the Month” series, detailing the origins, history, and eventual discontinuation of pigments once common on the artists’ palette. In this next installment, we explore the history of Emerald Green, and the chemical composition that made it both brilliant and lethal.

A Stitch in Time

A Stitch in Time

When extraordinarily fragile pieces are treated by The Center, often the conservators recommend handling the pieces as little as possible to preserve their longevity.  So when Gloria Diaz brought in a delicate lace mantilla and expressed that she would like it to be functional for future ceremonies, we knew we had our work cut out for us.  

At the time Gloria brought in her mantilla, it had been used by three generations in twenty-four weddings, ten baptisms, on “Taking of the Veil,” and one First Communion.  Since the lace garment had been both well-loved and well-used, it exhibited inevitable signs of wear.  As Gloria noted, “I realized that the mantilla was near the end of its life if we did not do something to improve its condition.  Because of its special place in our family, we wanted the mantilla to be something that existing and future generations would use.”

A Note from Heather Becker, CEO

A Note from Heather Becker, CEO

On November 13th, I gave a presentation on disaster preparedness at the Association of Registrars and Collection Specialists (ARCS) conference in New Orleans.  The audience included nearly 700 museum registrars, collection managers, conservators, consultants, appraisers, and art shippers.

Wax On, Wax Off

Wax On, Wax Off

Are your furniture and wooden artifacts lacking the glow that they used to have?  The culprit is most likely an aged, worn, or damaged wax layer.  Wax coatings are applied on top of a finished piece of wood to act as a protective coating.  Without this layer, foreign particulates, such as dirt or soot, could accumulate and settle into the finish.  Old finishes are delicate and desirable and repeated cleaning of original surface can damage the patina.  Particles and dust will inevitably settle on the surface of a piece and then become embedded in the sacrificial wax coat.  The wax coat can then be easily removed without damaging the original finish.

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