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Conservation of the Collection – Göteborgs konstmuseum

One of the major tasks of the Gothenburg Museum of Art is to conserve and present the art in the collection for present and future generations. Therefore, the museum staff includes conservators whose task is to make sure that the art is taken care of in the best possible way.

The conservators at the Gothenburg Museum of Art are members of the Nordic Conservators Union (NKF-S), the International Association of Book and Paper Conservators (IADA) and follow the professional ethical rules of ICOM. Collaborating closely with universities and colleges, the museum’s conservators teach various courses in their respective areas of expertise.


Long-Term Conservation

Preventive efforts are the foundation of conservation. Due to repeated exposure, artworks come into contact with a number of harmful factors such as strong light, extreme temperatures, incorrect humidity, bad handling or vermin. Adjusting the indoor environment to an appropriate climate, with regulated light and clean air, is therefore essential for the condition of the artworks and decides if they will be able to be shown in the future at all.

Konservator mäter ljusnivå framför en större målning av en kvinna i ljus klänning
When an artwork is installed, conservators regulate the levels of light. Halving the amount of light doubles the life span for pigments used in painting that are sensitive to fading.


Technical Analyses

To understand which processes of decay are affecting an artwork, the artwork is studied in a microscope or in different kinds of light. Through these kinds of analyses, and through chemical tests, different kinds of damage can be distinguished. New facts about the artist’s technique and choice of materials can also be discovered. This is information that contributes to art history, and all the findings about the artwork are documented in a museum database.

Carl Larssons akvarell Snickare Hellbergs ungar med UV bild 1200x800
The image to the left shows the original of Carl Larsson’s watercolour Snickare Hellbergs ungar (Carpenter Hellberg’s Kids), to the right a version that is illuminated with UV light. Different materials fluoresce with different intensities and colours in UV light. The illumination here shows that Carl Larsson used the pigment zinc white to enhance the lighter sections in the painting. This information is useful to find out when the artwork was painted and decide its authenticity, among other things.


Artworks Deteriorate – and Get Repaired

In the museum’s two studios for conservation, artworks are prepared for exhibitions and loans to other museums. This could entail treatment of damage, cleaning or mounting on durable materials. As far as possible, the goal is to preserve the authenticity of the artwork, in other words the way it was originally made. All the procedures are based on science and require a thorough knowledge of the materials that the artworks are made up of. Our conservators use internationally recognized methods and materials so that the results of their efforts are stable over time.

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