The Furniture and Frame Conservation Laboratory, founded in 1971, preserves, conserves, investigates, and facilitates the display of furniture, frames, musical instruments, and period rooms in the Museum’s galleries. These objects, originating from around the world and dating from the fourteenth century to the present day, are comprised of a wide range of materials in addition to wood, such as ivory, bone, and tortoiseshell. They exhibit many different methods of construction and decorative finish, including painted, gilded, and lacquered surfaces. Contemporary furniture materials also consist of metals, plastics, laminates, and resins, all of which present unique challenges for their long-term preservation.
Some of the treatments performed within the lab involve stabilization of structural components and veneered surfaces, as well as reapplication of elements such as loose moldings and lifting marquetry. Due to the hydroscopic nature of wood, surface coatings ranging from clear finishes to gilded layers are particularly vulnerable and are often in need of stabilization and consolidation. A major challenge is the cleaning and removal of later over-coatings or restorations that often obscure the original surfaces.
In addition to hands-on treatments, conservators also undertake extensive in-depth technical examinations of furniture, frames and musical instruments that can aid in designing conservation treatments. Such studies contribute to scholarly understanding of the techniques and methods used to fabricate these objects and are crucial for the authentication of any new artworks coming into the collection. To this end, furniture and frame conservators work closely with curatorial colleagues and the Scientific Research Lab. Examples of these technical investigations include the analysis of painted finishes on early American furniture and the development in the manufacture of the wood screw.
Examination and conservation of an Egyptian door from the Mamluk period
Treatment and re-upholstery of Rococo Revival parlor furniture