I would like to get a work of art conserved. Where do I find a conservator?

An appropriate conservator may be accessed at The Conservation Register. The website also provides guidance on caring for art and antiques. The National Galleries does not undertake private work.

I am interested in pursuing a career in conservation: how do I go about it?

Further information on education and training opportunities can be found through Icon, the Institute of Conservation, the lead voice for the conservation of cultural heritage in the UK.

How should I store and display works of art on paper?

The most important thing you can do to safeguard your artworks on paper is to store and display them in a stable environment out of direct sunlight. Areas with high temperatures, dampness, low air circulation or conditions that fluctuate widely are unsuitable and can cause mould and other damage. Avoid hanging pictures and photographs above radiators or in bathrooms. Additionally, keeping objects out of direct sunlight will reduce light damage, which can cause fading of sensitive materials such as watercolour. It is also best to avoid hanging pictures on outside walls as this can cause a build up of moisture on the back of the artwork. Good housekeeping is important. You should dust objects and keep storage areas clean. This will help prevent insect infestations.

How should I mount and frame my work of art on paper?

Mount board should be made from 100% rag or lignin-free cellulose. Sometimes those labeled as "museum board" or "conservation board" are not of the highest quality. Avoid the use of pressure-sensitive tapes such as Sellotape and masking tape type products as they will degrade over a relatively short period of time causing staining and embrittlement of paper. This damage can be difficult for conservators to reduce or remove. It is important that the front of your artwork is not in contact with the glazing of the frame. Using a window mount can help.

What damage can be caused by poor quality Mount board?

If mount boards contain wood-pulp they will become discoloured and degraded with age. This can cause staining on the artwork underneath. This damage is often seen on the artwork along the beveled edge of the window mount. This type of stain is generally related to acidity and will weaken and degrade the paper.

How can I protect my work of art on paper from light damage?

Sunlight and fluorescent lights both contain high amounts of UV light. UV light is high energy and just as it is damaging to our skin, it is damaging to both paper and media and can cause cumulative and irreversible fading and damage. The most sensitive materials include watercolours, gouache, modern coloured inks (including digital prints) and coloured papers. You can help protect your artwork by using glazing with a UV filter, not displaying your artworks in direct sunlight and by closing the curtains on bright days. Please note glazing with a UV filter does not remove all of the UV light. It is also a good idea to rotate the display of artworks in your home so one piece is not on display all of the time. This is something that art galleries and museums also do.

What are the brown spots that sometimes appear on works of art on paper?

‘Foxing’ is a general term that refers to the appearance of small, generally circular, brown spots and stains on works of art on paper. Foxing has many possible causes including mould and deterioration of metal impurities within the paper. Metal impurities would generally have been introduced during the paper manufacture process. Mould spores are everywhere in the environment and thrive on the cellulose that forms the paper as a food source, especially in high humidity.

My work of art on paper is not flat, should I be worried?

Paper is hygroscopic, which means that it absorbs and desorbs moisture from the environment. As it does this, the papers dimensions will change and this can cause undulations or ‘cockling’ in the paper sheet. This is often seen in larger, modern artworks and prints. Sometimes, this ‘movement’ within the paper was part of the artists intentions. However, it can cause damage such as cracking or flaking if you have weak or friable media and can interrupt the aesthetics of the artwork. In these cases it would be advisable to consult an experienced conservator.

Useful links

The Institute of Conservation is the lead voice for the conservation of cultural heritage in the UK.

International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works promotes the knowledge, methods and working standards needed to protect and preserve historic and artistic works throughout the world.

ICOM-CC (International Council of Museums – Committee for Conservation) aims to promote the conservation, investigation and analysis of culturally and historically significant works and to further the goals of the conservation profession.

The Scottish Conservation Bureau at Historic Scotland works towards improving the quality and standards of conservation of the historic environment in Scotland. It offers a broad spectrum of services to the public, building owners, professional groups and the building industry.