Background

FAIC and museum staff view photos for conservation at the HermitageThe Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (FAIC) obtained a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a 4-year initiative to support the establishment of a photograph conservation department at the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. This initiative would represent an additional, highly significant chapter in The Mellon Foundation’s longstanding generous commitment to develop the field of photograph conservation – a field that does not exist in Russia – by providing superior educational and research opportunities.

In 2008-09, a comprehensive survey of the Hermitage’s collections was undertaken with Mellon support. It identified 44 repositories in the museum, holding over 472,000 photographs of which a bilingual computerized inventory was created. Due to the substantial cultural value and vulnerability of these collections, The State Hermitage Museum has recently allocated several staff positions for a centralized off-site department of photograph conservation and will provide state-of-the-art storage and curatorial facilities, in the first instance, for the photograph collections of the Russian History and Culture Department (45,000 items), among the largest and most important collections of photographs in Russia.

FAIC seeks to augment this major commitment by training skilled conservation and collection management staff to supervise the cataloguing, care, and preservation of the Hermitage photograph collections, as well as providing the essential tools and materials needed to address the preservation priorities identified in the 2008-09 survey. An international advisory committee composed of experts in the fields of photograph and preventive conservation, conservation education, documentation, cataloguing, digital imaging and scientific research would be formed to lead this initiative. As a result, the Hermitage’s department of photograph conservation would be grounded in the highest international standards. A model for best practices in photograph conservation, cataloguing, and digital imaging, this department would be unique in Russia and establish the discipline of photograph conservation in the nation.

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