Object Conservation encompasses the most varied sector of the National Collection, from the monumental works in the Sculpture Garden to delicate feathers and bark paintings, through to art that includes exciting new synthetic materials, installation and time-based media. It is a field that covers sculpture, mechanical and electrical works of art, decorative arts and cultural objects. Each material has its own mechanisms of deterioration to understand, and try to allay, through scientific analysis of the materials response to the environmental forces of light, moisture and interactions with people. Many objects have cultural aspects or artists intentions that our conservators respect through consultation prior to any interventions.
Conservators may question if a sculpture is supposed to show the effects of time by being allowed to deteriorate, or does it need to be completely repainted as it must have a pristine surface? Can it be retouched, or is this culturally inappropriate? Does it need to function and therefore need ongoing maintenance for the entire duration of its display? Does it just need new lightbulbs? Object conservators venture into research and treatments for the structural integrity of these works, treatment of their surfaces, and repairs to keep them as the artist intended.