What is the difference between conservation and restoration?

Conservation is the profession devoted to the preservation of cultural property for the future. Conservation activities include examination, documentation, treatment, and preventive care. Treatment may consist of stabilization and/or restoration. Stabilization refers to treatment procedures intended to maintain the integrity and original material of an object and to minimize deterioration. Restoration refers to treatment procedures intended to return objects to a known or assumed state, often through the addition of non-original material material such as the replacement of missing ornament. All added material is isolated from the original so that it is detectable and may be removed if deemed appropriate in the future. Most conservation projects include a mix of treatment methods, which are carefully considered and discussed with the client before the project begins.

How can I tell whether a frame is worth a conservation treatment?

Period frames have been increasing in value over the last decade, and paintings in their original frames are worth more than paintings that have been put in newer frames. This is particularly true of frames with gilded surfaces. For these reasons, most period frames in reasonable condition are worth a conservation assessment. A treatment proposal from a professional conservator will outline the options and their costs.

Can you prepare a treatment proposal from photographs?

No. Even a detailed photograph doesn’t give enough information to make an accurate evaluation of the condition or the treatment required. Preparation of a treatment proposal involves much more than the physical appearance of the object. A conservator must make a detailed assessment of the object’s surface in order to prepare a professional treatment proposal.

What is the process for getting a gilded object repaired?

Every treatment at Harvard Art starts with an evaluation of the current condition of the object. From this evaluation, Harvard Art will prepare a written treatment proposal that describes the current condition of the object, the proposed treatment options, and the estimated cost of each option. Upon acceptance of the proposal, Harvard Art will schedule a time when the object can be treated, either at the client’s site or at our studio originally in Harvard, Massachusetts and now in Osterville, MA. On completion, Harvard Art provides a treatment report that documents the treatment process (before, during, and after photographs, steps taken, and material used).

How do objects get to Harvard Art for treatment?

In the local New England area, reasonable fees for pick-up and delivery can be included in the treatment proposal, on request. Beyond the local area, Harvard Art recommends a Fine Art carrier, such as Fine Arts Enterprises or US Art Co. Objects can also be shipped via Federal Express or UPS, and in those cases Harvard Art recommends the use of packaging materials specifically made for fine art objects, such as the Airfloat Systems Strong Box.

Does Harvard Art perform treatments on site?

Yes. If the conditions are appropriate, Harvard Art can perform on-site treatments.

Do you work on picture frames that are not gilded?

In many cases, yes. Period frames can have a variety of surfaces, many of which are similar to the gilded surface, both in the ways they can be damaged and the ways they can be treated.

Do you work on furniture, or architectural elements?

Harvard Art has conservation experience with a wide range of period objects, including gilded and painted furniture and architectural elements.

Will Harvard Art survey the condition of our frame collection?

Yes. Harvard Art performs frame surveys for major museums and for collectors, including assessments of frame condition and of period-appropriateness of the frames of paintings. The survey results in a report that details the current condition and recommends a treatment for each frame that requires conservation. Surveys are useful for prioritizing work and budgeting for the future.

How much will it cost to get my frame repaired?

The cost of frame treatment varies considerably, and can only be estimated accurately through the process of preparing a detailed treatment proposal. Often we can present several treatment options to be considered; Harvard Art can help you make those decisions and reach a solution that meets your needs.

I have a gilded frame I’d like to repair myself. Can I get the materials and some help from Harvard Art?

No. Gilding and conservation of period pieces is an involved process, not something that can be learned in a weekend. Though well intentioned, amateur repairs can do irreparable damage, permanently lowering the value of an object and making professional treatment much more difficult and costly.