Analysis of restoration materials: The Campbell Collection at Winterthur Museum

Margaret A. Little and Janice H. Carlson


In 1996, the H. F. DuPont Winterthur Museum acquired a collection of ceramic and metal soup tureens and related objects from the Campbell Museum in Camden, New Jersey. The majority of the collection dates to the 18th – 19th centuries, and is of American and European manufacture. Examination of the objects indicated that many of the ceramic tureens had been restored in the past. However, information about previous restorations in the Campbell Museum’s files was incomplete or nonexistent.

For the exhibit The Campbell Collection of Soup Tureens at Winterthur, 137 pieces from the collection were selected, and the objects were examined and conserved in Winterthur’s Objects Conservation Laboratory. In treating the previously restored ceramic objects, one of the first decisions to be made was whether previous restorations should be reversed. With the curator, conservators established a list of criteria to guide the decision-making process. If a restoration was reversed, the methods used were recorded; the appearance of the materials used in normal and long-wave ultraviolet light was noted; and samples of adhesives, fill material and inpainting/coating materials were collected and analyzed using a variety of instrumental techniques. The goal of the analyses was to provide a better understanding of the types and variety of materials used in the restoration of ceramic objects in the Campbell Collection. The results of the analyses were also compared with lists of materials suggested for use in ceramic conservation and/or restoration, collected during a literature search. Because the restoration records for the Campbell Collection were limited, comparison of the analytical data with the literature gave an opportunity to compare the actual types of material used to restore the tureens with the material being used commonly by restorers and conservators reported in the literature.

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1997 | San Diego | Volume 5