Almost every item viewed by a visitor to the National Portrait Gallery—and many not on display—has been touched by a Portrait Gallery conservator. Charged with caring for the collection—and preserving it for years to come—the staff works with every medium, from paper to video. Conservators are involved in remounting and framing fragile works, cleaning stained or damaged objects, repairing tears, and assessing materials for acquisition, treatment, and potential loan.
For works created with computer-based technology, a digital arts team made up of curators, conservators, installation specialists and registrars meets regularly to discuss strategies and protocols for acquisition, documentation, installation and long-term preservation storage. The NPG digital arts team works closely with staff at the Smithsonian’s Data Asset Management System (DAMS) office to devise methodologies to track the integrity of the artists’ digital files to ensure that these artworks can continue to be enjoyed long into the future.
Lunder Conservation Center
Located on the third floor of the Reynolds Center, which houses both the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Lunder Conservation Center allows visitors to watch conservators from both museums in action.
Floor to ceiling glass walls permit museumgoers to peek into the Frame Studio, Painting Studio, Painting Lab, Paper Lab, and Object Lab. You might glimpse a historic frame being re-gilded or a fragile portrait being cleaned. The first facility to provide these rare opportunities to the public, the Lunder Center will captivate anyone interested in the care and preservation of original works of art.