The Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies provides analysis and treatments for the Harvard Art Museums’ more than 250,000 objects in all media, ranging in date from antiquity to the present, from Europe, North and South America, North Africa, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, and East Asia.
Training and education are fundamental activities of the Straus Center, maintaining a tradition established at its founding over 80 years ago, when it became the ﬁrst institution in the United States to use scientiﬁc methods to study artists’ materials and techniques. The center’s Advanced-Level Training Program provides formal hands-on training in the conservation of works on paper, paintings, and objects and sculpture, as well as in conservation science. This program was formalized in 1972 with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and oﬀers three 10-month fellowships each year. Supervised by the Straus Center’s conservators and conservation scientists, fellows reﬁne their practical and analytical skills as they examine and treat works of art from important collections from within the Harvard Art Museums and around the country, and publish their original research.
The Straus Center is a pioneer in the use of sophisticated examination and instrumental techniques to analyze the structural and chemical nature of works of art and historical objects. As a research institution, the Straus Center specializes in performing and publishing integrated technical and art historical studies of works of art in a variety of forums. Its facilities support a comprehensive range of analytical services, including pigment, stone, ceramic, and metal identiﬁcation, as well as spectroscopic analyses of organic materials including pigments, paint-binding media, and surface treatments and coatings. Much of the analytical staﬀ’s time is devoted to supporting student, faculty, and curatorial research.
The Department for Technical Studies was established in 1928 by Edward W. Forbes, director of Harvard University’s Fogg Museum. It is the oldest ﬁne arts conservation treatment, research, and training facility in the United States. In 1994, the center was renamed the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies in honor of Philip A. and Lynn Straus, longtime benefactors of the Harvard Art Museums. The Straus Center specializes in the conservation of works on paper, paintings, sculpture, decorative objects, and historical and archaeological artifacts.
The Straus Center for Conservation today continues to play a leading role not only in preserving speciﬁc works of art but also in developing new methods and techniques for the ﬁeld of conservation and in training the next generation of conservators.