Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, has had a paintings conservator on staff for close to 60 years, and the paintings collections have been well maintained. However, the objects conservation department was only established in 1989, resulting in an alarming 70-year backlog in the American decorative arts collection, due in part to a lack of funding, a lack of space, and conflicting curatorial priorities.

The recent arrival of a curator of decorative arts has been the impetus for a renewed focus on an important, but little known, American collection. Building on a comprehensive conservation survey of the American furniture and period rooms done in 1992, more surveys for treatment prioritization are in the works. At least 600 objects are in need of minor treatment, while about 100 need further evaluation and possibly major treatment before they can be considered for display.

It is anticipated that many treatments will require funding beyond the general operating budget, especially those that require the expertise of outside consultants. For example, the museum is currently seeking $25,000 for the conservation of an important upholstered Renaissance Revival settee.