The Works of Art on Paper Department maintains the historical integrity of the piece, while addressing concerns of long-term storage, display, and preservation with established methods in the field of paper conservation.

The Center's paper conservators encounter a variety of works, such as historical documents, drawings and prints, and screens, to pastels, watercolors, blueprints, and scrolls. The conservators treat each piece individually based upon information gathered during examination and testing.

The Paper Department’s approach is dependent upon a wide range of inherent properties in each sheet.  The age, type of paper, media, scale, and previous campaigns of conservation are just a few considerations for each treatment approach. Many of these properties are easily affected by a variety of environmental, housing, and age-related factors.

Our conservators offer options for the treatment and preservation of your piece, along with advice on proper handling, storage, and care. Each work is treated with established methods and materials used throughout the field of paper conservation. For more complex treatments, conservators maintain an ongoing dialogue with clients.

Magical Methods: Water Washing

treatment gallery

Portrait of a Woman in Gown. Pastel on paper. Water staining and age related conditions, i.e. embrittled paper.

before after

Marriage certificate. Engraving with iron gall ink on paper. Age related issues.

before after

Ketubah. Engraving with fountain pen ink on paper. Age related and handling issues.

before after

Portrait of Woman in Red. Tempera on silk mounted on paper. Water staining and mold damage.

before after

stories related to paper conservation:

video: examining a 10th century codex

When a 10th century Codex arrived at The Conservation Center for treatment earlier this year, we were all intrigued by the craftsmanship of this rare volume. This surviving example of a medieval Christian text contains the Gospels of Luke and John. Apparently these 37 leaves of vellum were found in an attic of an old house in Constantinople—now Istanbul, Turkey—many years ago. Before treating this book, we had to properly examine every page and determine the best conservation method. So why not produce a stop-motion video that showcases the Codex, cover to cover?

When Considering Paper Conservation...A Moment With an Albrecht Durer Etching

In the field of paper conservation, there are a myriad of challenges that one can encounter. Some of the biggest issues that arise when treating works of art on paper are the result of fragile media and temperamental fibers within the sheet. “Works on paper were intended for daily use and handling, and thus do not stand the test of time as well as other art forms that were meant to be admired from a distance,” said The Conservation Center’s Senior Paper Conservator. “Many of the conditions we encounter are not only related to age, but also to improper storage.” Acid-free and archival housing materials are relatively new in the scope of framing practices. Most people do not even realize that acidic materials are usually the cause of the gradual deterioration of paper—until it is too late and the sheet is heavily yellowed, embrittled, and the damage is too severe to reverse. 

A Cherished "May Milton" Lithograph by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Dances Back to Life


Sometimes a singular work of art can inspire an entire collection. When this is the case, the collector cherishes that first piece above all others. When a client of The Conservation Center brings in a work that we can actually see the joy and affection brought on by it, those feelings are contagious. This is what happened recently when Bruce Romick, a private collector from Indiana, contacted us about one such treasured item. Mr. Romick and his wife had acquired a lithograph of May Milton by famed Post-Impressionist artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in 1978. While it was in very good condition when purchased, after 37 years, some degradation was to be expected. Our Paper Department was in charge to bring “May” back to life so it would continue to bring the Romicks the same joy for many years to come.

Saving a 10th Century Greek Codex From Water Damage

After more than three decades of preserving fine art and heirlooms at The Conservation Center, we now have an impressive answer to one of the most the frequently asked questions by our clients and visitors: “What is the oldest piece that The Center has ever conserved?” Recently, a 10th century Greek Codex—which contains portions of the New Testament Gospels of Luke and John—arrived at our conservation lab, and we, admittedly, are truly impressed. This rare book belongs to Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, a Bible-based university supported by Seventh-day Adventist Church.