Someone on the Tate Science and Conservation team sampling paint

Conservation Scientist Dr Judith Lee sampling paint that was applied in the mid-20th century, for analysis

Conservation scientists study artists’ materials and techniques, and conservation materials, and how they 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 supporting conservation treatments, practice and access to works of art.

Samples of paint in the Tate science and conservation department

Samples of paint from the mid- and later 20th centuries, in the organics laboratory

Someone holding gel that will clean artwork

Nanorestart gel being prepared for a treatment to remove dirt from Roy Lichtenstein’s Whaam! 1963

Someone holding painted boards detailing painting techniques

Dr Joyce Townsend in the projects laboratory, with painted boards that explore J.M.W. Turner’s painting techniques

Samples of paint in the Projects Laboratory

The Tate projects laboratory, with many samples of modern paints prepared for a workshop on new methods for cleaning painted surfaces

The Tate Microscopy Laboratory

The microscopy laboratory, with tiny samples from artworks collected over 30 years and more

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 knowledge 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