Museum Home Research and Conservation Museum Conservation

Conservation is a fundamental responsibility of the J. Paul Getty Museum and an essential element of the Museum's mission, which includes acquiring, conserving, exhibiting, and interpreting works of art. Within the collection are classical antiquities; European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, and decorative arts; and photographs.

Conservation is an integral part of almost all of the activities of the Museum. The conservation professionals in the Museum's conservation departments -- as well as a varying number of interns and other trainees, and guest conservators -- perform a wide range of services. They support the Museum's effort to exhibit and interpret the collections now, and to preserve them for the enjoyment and education of future generations.

A few basic principles underlie the Museum's conservation work.

Avoiding deterioration by eliminating its cause is more effective and less expensive in the long run than repair. For that reason, the Museum pursues an aggressive program of preventive conservation that includes climate control and environmental monitoring; design of mounts and display cases; pest management; and storage, packing, and shipping methods. Mitigating the effects of earthquakes is a special challenge in California. The Museum is recognized around the world for its research in this area and for the solutions it has developed.

While no treatment is 100 percent reversible, Museum staff aim to come as close as possible to that standard. Since methods for cleaning, reassembly, and restoration are subject to periodic reevaluation because of technical innovations and changing values, it is important that work be reversible so as not to impede the efforts of future conservators.

Aesthetic responsibility
Not only do Museum conservators preserve the collection, they help make works of art readable to visitors so that they see the art rather than any damage to it. As a result, most restorations are designed to be invisible to the naked eye. In some complicated instances, however, this may involve a balancing act, employing suggestive measures to make the work appear complete while not obscuring the visual difference between original work and restoration.

Conservation Departments
The Getty Museum has approximately 25 conservators and support staff. Within the Museum there are four conservation departments. To learn more about their work, click the video icons in the box on the right.

In addition, the Getty Conservation Institute's Museum Research Laboratory provides service to the Museum's conservation departments performing scientific analysis of works from the collections to support treatments, studies of technology and materials, and collaboration with the conservators and other institutions.

Separate from the Getty Museum is the Getty Research Institute, which maintains a Conservation and Preservation Department for the collections of the Getty Research Library.

Internship Program
The Getty Museum has an active internship program. Twelve-month internships are offered in several of the Museum's conservation departments. The internship program is organized and administered by the Getty Foundation.

Guest Scholars
Guest scholars with a special interest in conservation are hosted by the Museum conservation departments each year for a three-month period.

Related Sections

Museum Conservation
Conservation Partnerships
Conservation Departments

Antiquities (5:10)
Decorative Arts and Sculpture (5:17)
Paintings (4:50)
Paper (5:05)