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Conservation

The Conservation Department works with all departments at the Gallery to ensure the long-term care of the collection. The department recognizes the importance of preventive conservation and recommends, develops, and institutes measures to ensure appropriate conditions for the storage, transport, and display of art.

About Conservation

About Conservation

Irma Passeri, Senior Conservator of Paintings, and Annika Finne, former conservation fellow, examine Piero di Cosimo's Virgin and Child with Saints Vincent Ferrer and Jerome, ca. 1510–15

Working in collaboration with curatorial staff, the department undertakes appropriate conservation procedures on individual objects to the highest-possible standards in accordance with the Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. Conservators examine and analyze objects in the collection to inform treatment methods and further teaching, scholarship, and research. Conservation treatments avoid compromising future research potential of objects. Conservators investigate materials and techniques using microscopy, X-radiography, X-ray fluorescence, and infrared reflectography. More advanced methods of analysis are coordinated with the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage at Yale University’s West Campus Collections Center and other laboratories. Examination and treatment documentation is thorough and stored in formats that ensure long-term preservation. The department partakes fully in the Gallery’s mission to teach and disseminate knowledge. Courses in conservation, connoisseurship, and technical art history are taught using the Gallery’s collection and facilities.

Recent Conservation Project

In 2016 the Gallery’s Conservation Department was asked to evaluate a mysterious panel painting on campus, referred to as the “Medical School Portrait.” Ian McClure, the Susan Morse Hilles Chief Conservator, spearheaded an investigation involving archival research along with ultraviolet florescence imaging, infrared reflectography, cross-section microscopy, scanning electron microscopy–electron dispersive spectrometry (SEM-EDS), and macro-X-ray fluorescence (MA-XRF). Guided by the findings of the extensive technical analysis, Gallery conservators recently cleaned the work of overpainting and old varnish, bringing it closer to the artist’s original vision.

The unsigned portrait depicts an unidentified man in a white ruff and dark robe, pointing at a skull. An inscription hovers in two sections, one on either side of the man’s head; it reads, “ÆTATIS SVÆ24 / ANNO 1580,” which roughly translates to “at the age of 24 / year 1580.”

Learn More about the Medical School Portrait
Amanda Kasman, former conservation fellow, cleaning the surface of the Medical School Portrait

Featured Media

Meet the Conservators

Irma Passeri

Irma Passeri, Conservator of Paintings, studied painting conservation at the Scuola di Alta Formazione at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, in Florence, where she received her degree in the Conservation of Easel Paintings in 1998. She has worked in the conservation departments of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure and the Philadelphia Museum of Art and joined the conservation staff at the Gallery in 2000, where her work focuses on the early Italian panel paintings in the museum’s collection. She has published articles on the materials and techniques of Italian paintings and on different approaches to the restoration treatment of loss compensation. She co-teaches the Technical Examination of Art course in the Department of the History of Art and, since 2019, co-organizes the Kress Summer Teachers Institute in Technical Art History, both at Yale.

irma.passeri@yale.edu

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Irma Passeri

Theresa Fairbanks Harris

Theresa Fairbanks Harris, Senior Conservator of Works on Paper, has worked for museums at Yale University since 1982. She earned a B.A. in Art History and Studio Art from Yale and, as an undergraduate, worked in the conservation laboratory for the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. She earned an M.S. in Art Conservation with a major in Paper Conservation and minor in Photograph Conservation from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, with an Advanced Certificate in Conservation from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, in Paper Conservation. She has worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Conservation Analytical Laboratory. As Paper Conservator at the National Museum of American History, she designed the museum’s Paper Conservation Laboratory. She lectures frequently and has taught courses at, among others, the Yale School of Art, the Department of the History of Art and Department of Music at Yale, and the Rare Book School. Her areas of interest include art on paper and photographs, pastels, portrait miniatures, watercolors, and paper identification.

theresa.fairbanks-harris@yale.edu

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Theresa Fairbanks Harris

Anne Turner Gunnison

Anne Turner Gunnison, the Alan J. Dworsky Senior Associate Conservator of Objects, graduated with a B.A. in art history from Stanford University and received a M.A. in Principles of Conservation and a M.S. in Conservation for Archaeology and Museums from the Institute of Archaeology, University College, London. She worked as a postgraduate fellow at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian before joining the staff at the Gallery in 2010.

anne.gunnison@yale.edu

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Anne Turner Gunnison

Cynthia Schwarz

Cynthia Schwarz, Senior Associate Conservator of Paintings, studied painting at the Rhode Island School of Design and painting conservation at the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. Before joining the staff at the Gallery in 2008, she held internships at the Balboa Art Conservation Center, in San Diego, and the Château de Parentignat, in Auvergne, France. She focuses her efforts on the conservation of the Gallery’s modern and contemporary paintings collection and has published research on works in the collection by Amedeo Modigliani, Francis Picabia, and Hedda Sterne. She also has extensive experience in the conservation of American mural paintings and the structural treatment of canvas paintings. She lectures for the Technical Examination of Art course in the Department of the History of Art and co-organizes the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Students and Mentors Institute in Technical Art History, both at Yale.

cynthia.schwarz@yale.edu

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Cynthia Schwarz

Catherine (Cathy) Silverman

Catherine (Cathy) Silverman is Assistant Conservator of Objects and Furniture. She earned a B.A. in Art History and French from Bristol University, in the United Kingdom, and an M.A. in Conservation Studies, specializing in furniture and related objects, at West Dean College, in England. She has held internships at the Wallace Collection, in London, and several private conservation studios, and prior to joining the Gallery she was the Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Objects Conservation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York. From fall 2018 to summer 2019, she was the project conservator for the relocation of the Gallery’s American Decorative Arts Furniture Study collection to the Leslie P. and George H. Hume American Furniture Study Center at Yale West Campus. Cathy has published articles on the materials and techniques of japanned furniture finishes and the history and conservation of decorative ray skin in furniture.

catherine.silverman@yale.edu

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Catherine Silverman

Kelsey Wingel

Kelsey Wingel, Assistant Conservator of Paintings, graduated with a B.A. in Art History and Art Conservation from the University of Delaware, in Newark, and an M.S. in Art Conservation from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. Before and during her graduate coursework, Kelsey treated paintings and painted surfaces at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, in Virginia, the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, and the Gianfranco Pocobene Studio, in Massachusetts. Kelsey is particularly interested in 18th- and 19th-century American paintings, and much of her time at the gallery has focused on the technical research and conservation treatment of preparatory paintings by the artist Edwin Austin Abbey.

kelsey.wingel@yale.edu

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Kelsey Wingel

Meet the Fellows and Intern

Amreet Kular

Amreet Kular is the Postgraduate Associate in Objects Conservation. She earned a B.A. in Honors Anthropology from the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada, and an M.A. in Principles of Conservation, followed by an M.Sc. in Conservation for Archaeology and Museums, from University College London. She completed her internship at National Museums Scotland, during which she conserved a variety of organic and inorganic objects. Amreet has held positions as a Conservator for Plowden and Smith Ltd., in London, and as a Collections Move Project Assistant for the University of Oxford’s History of Science Museum. Previously, she worked for the Canadian Conservation Institute, where, as an Assistant Conservator in the archaeology laboratory, she had the opportunity to conserve objects from sites across Canada.

amreet.kular@yale.edu

Madeline Smith

Madeline (Maddy) Smith is the Postgraduate Associate in Time-Based Media Conservation. She earned a B.A. in American Studies and English from the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, and an M.A. in Moving Image Archiving and Preservation from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Her master’s thesis was on the history of the Matters in Media Art web resource and the stewardship of time-based media in art museum collections. She has worked with media collections at the Center for Constitutional Rights, ArteEast, and Ballet Tech, all in New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in Washington, D.C.; and with media artists’ personal collections.

madeline.smith@yale.edu

Anna Vesaluoma

Anna Vesaluoma is the Postgraduate Associate in Paintings Conservation. She earned a B.A. (with honors) in Painting from the University of Edinburgh and a Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. Anna is both an aspiring conservator and a practicing artist. At the Courtauld, she treated canvas and panel paintings, including a 16th-century Tudor portrait by Cornelis Ketel and a 20th-century canvas painting by Annie Walke. She has worked in museums and private studios, including the Finnish National Gallery, in Helsinki, and Kiffy Stainer-Hutchins & Co. and J. Dimond Conservation Ltd., both in England. Her dissertation research was done in collaboration with the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, in Amsterdam, on the identification of synthetic organic pigments in early 20th-century paintings. Anna will be working on the Gallery’s collection of American paintings.

anna.vesaluoma@yale.edu

Katherine Peters

Katherine (Kiki) Peters, Conservation Pre-Program Intern, earned a B.A. in the History of Art from Yale University in 2020. She started working in the Gallery’s Conservation Department during her third year of college and continued with her studies after graduation. During her two years as a student in the lab, she assisted on a variety of projects, most notably the treatment of a bridal necklace from Southwest China’s Nuosu Yi people. On this project, she polished the necklace’s silver or silver-like alloy, reattached a loose element, and learned about the methods of scientific analysis used to examine the piece. Kiki also researched and catalogued a collection of historical pigments and art materials. She will continue to explore the many fields of conservation taking place at the Gallery: paintings, objects, paper, and time-based media.

katherine.peters@yale.edu

Online Resources

AATA Online

Abstracts of international conservation literature
aata.getty.edu

AIC

American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works
conservation-us.org

BCIN

Bibliographic Database of the Conservation Information Network
bcin.ca

CAMEO

Conservation and Art Materials Encyclopedia Online
cameo.mfa.org

e-conservation Journal

e-conservation.org

IIC

The International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works
iiconservation.org