The conservation division engages in a two- and three-year cycle of hosting fellowships for treatment of the collection and an assistantship to serve in the fulfilling the goals of the Art Materials Research and Study Center collection. Visit the conservation fellowship overview page and to see what fellowship opportunities may be currently available.
Fellows in the treatment disciplines and scientific research department in conservation are provided with an opportunity to conduct a long-term study on an area of interest related to the Gallery’s collections. Facture is a publication that showcases the research conducted by our staff as well as by the fellows who serve in the conservation division.
Art Materials Research and Study Center
This important gift of art materials provided to the Gallery in 1993 established the core of a collection that has expanded since the initial gift. The website entries devoted to the Art Materials Research and Study Center and accessible from our Resources page feature an overview and a variety of areas of interest related to manufacturing and items in the collection. Topics include the history of materials, unique items in the collection, and an exploration of the materials used to create works of art.
Lectures and Outreach Activities
The conservation division hosts lectures and outreach events like the Artist Roundtable Series, bringing artists together with conservators to discuss the history and nature of art materials. Support for this and other programs enables the division to bring outstanding professionals to the Gallery to share their expertise on art materials, conservation treatments, and scientific research projects through periodic lectures and symposia.
In 2007 the conservation division established an imaging facility—the first of its kind to use advanced image capture and analysis techniques developed in the remote-sensing industry to study the materials, underlying paint layers, and techniques employed in the creation of works of art. An overview of the work accomplished by the imaging staff in the scientific research department is available here.
The result of past imaging research has enabled the scientific research department to secure the means to share funding to support a three-year fellowship to study, develop, and improve imaging techniques related to the nondestructive analysis of works of art. This project began in 2012.
Collaborative Imaging Initiative
As part of this initiative, the scientific research department hosts a fellow from a local university to work on advanced imaging of works of art. The fellow conducts research and tests advanced imaging techniques and equipment to expand knowledge of the methods and materials used to create works of art.
A long-term study of early photographs and the techniques used to produce these works of art was initiated in 2010. Staffing and research funds were obtained to organize the photograph department and to establish collaborative projects with major photographic collections and foundations that care for the work of a number of well-known photographers.
ConservationSpace was begun to give structure to a collaborative effort of the National Gallery of Art, the Courtauld Institute of Art, the Denver Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Denmark, and Yale University to work with a software developer to establish a customized document management system for aggregating and storing reports and images that are generated during the art treatment process. The system, developed by conservators for the art preservation community, will be distributed as open-source software for the benefit of all in the conservation profession.
Gilbert Stuart Treatment Project
Funding was provided for the conservation division to treat 16 paintings by the American colonial period portrait painter Gilbert Stuart. Once treatment is completed, the Stuart paintings will return to the Gallery.
Fellowship Travel Program
Ongoing funding provides the opportunity for novice painting conservators to have the means to travel to attend important conferences and conduct research related to works of art. This will expand the knowledge of young, talented conservators who are beginning a career in this profession.