Art conservation is one of those disciplines that can be shrouded in mystery. When famous paintings or buildings are restored, it gets published in the New York Times. The public oohs and ahhs at the magic of restoring a relic from hundreds or thousands of years ago back to its former glory. Conservation projects like these are exciting because it’s the closest thing we have to time travel. It’s the only place that the authentic past is revived in the present before our very eyes.
As the senior furniture conservator of the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, Don Williams has been routinely entrusted with restoring some of our nation’s most significant cultural artifacts. Considered by colleagues the “inimitable” Don Williams, he has worked tirelessly to educate the both professional peers as well as the public about appropriately caring for our treasures. But Don is no velvet rope highbrow. He recognizes that even family heirlooms hold significant meaning and value for their owners even though they lack broader cultural value.
In this article, Don shows us how to think through the preservation and restoration of our furniture. Because it takes more than technical skill to take on these projects without ruining their value, we should be asking ourselves, “How does one know where to begin when considering treating damaged furniture?”, “What kind of considerations must we take before we pick up a solvent or take out the clamps?”, “What’s the difference between ‘restoration’ and ‘conservation’ anyway?”
Because this topic has been near to my heart for a number of years and so I am delighted to have the Don of Dons elaborating on this for us in Issue Two.
Stay tuned for the next installment from the table of contents tomorrow…