Conservation Timeline

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Founded in 1956 with a single paintings conservator, the department has grown to a staff of over 30 specializing in nine disciplines.

  • 1956

    The Department of Conservation is established with the hire of a single paintings conservator, Louis Pomerantz.

01 Pomerantz At Microscope
Pomerantz treating Taddeo di Bartolo's “The Crucifixion” at the microscope.
  • Undated

    Before hiring Pomerantz, conservation was undertaken by private conservators including H. A. Hammond Smith and Leo Marzolo.

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Advertisement for Marzolo’s restoration services from "The Palette and Chisel" newsletter; A treatment label from Smith on verso of Thomas Cole’s “New England Scenery.”
  • 1961

    Following Pomerantz, Alfred Jakstas was the main conservator at the Art Institute from 1961 to 1981.

03 Jakstas
Jakstas preparing a lining canvas in 1963.
  • 1969

    After associate conservator Marigene Butler takes a course in polarized light microscopy at McCrone Research Institute, the lab purchases its first Zeiss polarizing light microscope. This type of microscope allows for the identification of pigment particles from samples.

Two conservators work on Sunday on La Grande Jatte using a machine that is scanning the painting.

Microscopist Inge Fiedler and paintings conservator Tim Lennon examine Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte—1884 in the 1980s.

  • 1970

    Paper Conservation was established within Department of Prints and Drawings with the hiring of Douglas Kenyon.

Two conservators inspect the back of a framed piece of artwork.

Paper conservator David Chandler and preparator Clyde Payton unframe Odilon Redon’s The Beacon about 1973.

  • 1977

    Textiles Conservation was established in 1977 within the Department of Textiles under curator-conservator Christa Thurman. The labs were renovated in 1988.

Washing Textile
Assistant conservator Lorna Filippini and conservation technician Ruth Jongsma wash a textile in the renovated lab space.
  • 1980

    Photography Conservation was established with the renovation of the Photography Department and hiring of conservator Doug Severson.

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Mellon Fellow Tania Passafiume treating Alfred Stieglitz’s The Flatiron and Severson examining Steiglitz's Georgia O’Keeffe: Hands and Thimble about 2002.

  • 1982

    Steve Starling was hired as a frame technician and became the first associate conservator of frames in 1997.

a frame conservator uses a cotton ball on a frame.
Starling gilding a frame in 1998.
A frame conservator uses as mask to work on a frame.
  • 1983

    Book Conservation was established within the Ryerson and Burnam Library in 1983 under part-time conservator Pablo Diaz. The lab underwent major renovation in 1994.

D18370 Bookconstimeline

Conservation technicians Cecile Webster and RaeAnn Collins with conservator Barbara Korbel, 1999/2000.

  • 1985

    Objects Conservation is established with the hiring of Barbara Hall.

A conservator works on a Chinese sculpture using a hand tool.

Hall treating the Chinese Seated Guanyin, about 1992.

  • 1985

    Paintings conservator William Leisher is named the first executive director of conservation and oversees paintings, objects, and frames.

Leisher W Fw
Leisher with paintings conservators Karen Knight and Faye Wrubel in 1985.
  • 1996

    Paintings, objects, and frame conservation move into renovated and expanded studios with additional examination room, new x-ray facilities, frame conservation space, and a microscopy and analytical lab.

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Conservators Faye Wrubel, Frank Zuccari, and Kristin Lister in the newly renovated paintings lab treating Giovanni Battista Tiepolo's “Armida Encounters the Sleeping Rinaldo”; Paul Gauguin's “Te raau rahi (The Big Tree)”; and Salvador Dalí's “A Chemist Lifting with Extreme Precaution the Cuticle of a Grand Piano.”
  • 2001

    The Paper Conservation lab is modernized and expanded as part of a larger renovation in the Department of Prints and Drawings.

Two paper conservators review a piece of artwork

Paper conservator David Chandler, intern Melissa Bushey, and conservator Margo McFarland attend to the prints and drawings collection in the newly renovated paper conservation lab.

  • 2003

    Conservation Science established in 2003 within the Department of Conservation with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the hiring of Francesca Casadio.

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Microscopist Inge Fiedler and Francesca Casadio take spectrophotometer readings on Robert Delaunay’s Champs de Mars: The Red Tower in 2003.

  • 2008

    Frank Zuccari, as the Executive Director of Conservation, is endowed by the Grainger Foundation for the Care and Study of Art. The foundation provided an addition endowment to the Department of Conservation in 2016.

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Zuccari treating El Greco’s Assumption of the Virgin in 2017.

  • 2017

    Kristin MacDonough was hired as the first time-based media conservation fellow, working as part of a cross-departmental team with Conservation and Science, Modern and Contemporary Art, Architecture and Design, and Photography, as well as Museum Registration and Information Services.

  • 2018

    The various specialties, several of which were formerly housed under their respective curatorial departments, were united as the Department of Conservation and Science under Francesca Casadio, the Grainger Executive Director of Conservation and Science.

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[Standing, from left] Chris Brooks, Sara Moy, Eva Schuchardt, Kristin MacDonough, Jeanine Wine, Cybele Tom, Antoinette Owen, Kelly Keegan, Ken Sutherland, Daniela Leonard, Jann Trujillo, Cynthia Kuniej Berry, Rachel Freeman, Kirk Vuillemot, Inge Fiedler, Allison Langley, Rachel Sabino, Elizabeth Wigfield, Kristin Lister, Kim Muir, Christine Fabian, Emily Heye, Suzy Schnepp, Harriet Stratis [seated, from left] Julie Simek, Faye Wrubel, Francesca Casadio, Frank Zuccari, Tim Lennon, Cecile Webster

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