The Prints, Drawings, & Photograph Department of the IMA holds over 29,000 works on paper representing all media and techniques from the Medieval period up to the present day. These works cannot be permanently shown because of the deleterious effects of light on paper, but the IMA exhibits prints & drawings on a rotating basis throughout the galleries, with two galleries dedicated to works on paper alone. The Paper conservator must ensure that the selected artworks are stable for display, and works to mitigate serious structural problems as well as minor surface flaws such as grime.
The Asian prints and paintings are executed on both paper and silk, and date from about 700 CE to 21st-century works. The complete restoration (remounting) of Asian screens and scrolls is a rare specialty that is not a part of the current IMA Conservation Department; but smaller structural treatments on Japanese prints and Chinese and Japanese scroll paintings and their mounts are regularly performed in the Paper Conservation Lab.
The IMA’s contemporary works on paper range from traditionally executed prints and drawings to experimental works featuring unorthodox media, substrates, configurations, and exhibition expectations. It is the conservator’s role to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each work and to map a safe course of storage and display protocols to best preserve the unique characteristics of each artwork.
The Paper Conservation Lab will be involved with research and testing within these three collections as the Conservation Science Center begins operation.
Conservator of Photographs Paul Messier has been working with the Paper Lab in a comprehensive project to examine all of the IMA photographs in order to advise on optimal care for these collections. This initiative has been made possible through a generous grant awarded by the Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS), a federal agency that funds important preservation activities in public and non-profit institutions.
Mr. Messier has worked for museums across the globe, troubleshooting on matters of photograph storage, display, and condition problems. In addition to making care recommendations, he has partnered with the IMA Science Center to launch a microfadeometry study that will help us to determine what levels of gallery light will be safe for sensitive color photographs. He is pictured above examining collection works and discussing the microfadeometry protocol with IMA scientist Dr. Greg D. Smith and Senior Conservator of Paper Claire Hoevel.