Conservation science and preventive conservation

Our team provide research and support to help care for Tate’s collection

A woman looks into a microscope at a Turner watercolour

Conservation scientists study artists’ materials and techniques and how they, and artists’ and conservation materials, change over time. Preventive conservation may be defined as all actions which slow or halt the damage or decline of artworks. Both are vital to support conservation treatments, practice and access to works of art.

a woman stands in front of a mass spectrometer machine

Dr. Bronwyn Ormsby using a mass spectrometer for the identification of a range of polymers used in works of art

a woman wears blue gloves and works intensely on a piece of artwork
a woman stands and scrapes a work of art
a woman stands and scrapes a work of art

1. Conservation Science tasks

  • Study how artworks are made particularly those that are difficult to conserve or poorly understood
  • Lead on or join internationally collaborative research projects and initiatives (such as the Modern Oils Research Consortium) and produce publications on a range of artists, a single artist or a particular art or conservation material
  • Provide scientific analysis of Tate’s collection
  • Use a range of microscopic, spectroscopic and mass spectrometric techniques to identify materials and/or understand how they may change over time
  • Disseminate to the wider heritage and scientific professions and the general public

2. Preventive Conservation tasks

  • Collect, analyse and report on environmental and pest data collected in spaces containing art. Environmental data includes temperature and relative humidity levels, light exposure, dust and pollutants
  • Adopt and endorse the Bizot Green Protocol 2015, a set of guidelines for environmental conditions for collections
  • Monitor Tate’s display and storage environments (which vary depending on the building structure or activity in the space)
  • Answer questions regarding the use, display and safe transport of the collections

Selected projects


Modern Oils Research Consortium

This collaborative project explores the challenges in conserving works painted in modern oils. Working together the five partner organisations will ...

Rothko conservation project Treatment of Rothko's Black on Maroon (T01170)

Rothko’s Black on Maroon was damaged in 2012 when black ink was applied to the lower right corner. A project ...


NANORESTART NANOmaterials for the REStoration of works of ART

NANORESTART will develop nano-materials to support the long term protection and continued access to modern and contemporary cultural heritage