Works on Paper

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Paper conservators are committed to the preservation, conservation treatment, and study of prints, drawings, and bound volumes. Works on paper and parchment are subject to damage from many sources—rough handling, inhospitable environments, exposure to light, and poor-quality housing materials. Conservators tailor treatments to alleviate deterioration and repair damage, respecting the unique characteristics of the work of art. We mend tears and fill losses in paper, lessen disfiguring stains and discoloration, reattach loose paint flakes, and remove acidic mounting materials. Working with other preservation specialists, we promote proper methods of storage, handling, and display.

In collaboration with conservation scientists and curators, paper conservators investigate the materials and techniques used to create works of art. Artists select papers that best serve their purposes, whether for drawing with charcoal, painting with watercolors, printing with a wood block, or cutting into collages. Available in innumerable colors, thicknesses, and textures, paper is made from linen and cotton rags, grasses, shrubs, and large trees. Drawing and print media come from such diverse sources as gall nuts, charred wood, precious stones, and colored clays. Research on materials informs treatment decisions and adds to our understanding of the artist’s creative process.

Up Close
Raphael's "The Prophets Hosea and Jonah"

Look closely at an early 16th-century drawing by Raphael and learn how the artist constructed his masterwork.

Illuminated Manuscripts

What are illuminated manuscripts? How are they made? Explore under the microscope the exquisite detail of these luminous paintings on animal skin. Learn how we treat, store, and display illuminated leaves so you and generations to come can enjoy their wonder.