The Conservation of Grant Wood's Spring Turning

This six-minute documentary explores a behind-the-scenes look at how the Museum cares for its collections. During a routine condition survey of Reynolda's paintings collection, contract conservator Ruth Cox found Grant Wood's Spring Turning, 1936, to be in need of attention. The Museum was awarded a grant from The Henry Luce Foundation for the treatment of the Wood painting along with several other masterpieces in the collection.

A Non-renewable Resource

Collections fuel almost all museum activity. From exhibitions and educational programs to publications and research, our collections are a non-renewable cultural resource. Preserving and protecting our collections is one of the most important ways that we serve the public.

A Non-renewable Resource

Collections care encompasses everything from maintaining good inventory practices and pest control measures, to conducting necessary conservation surveys and treatments. Minimizing deterioration of art objects through the control of environmental factors and good management is the basis of preventative conservation in any museum collection.

A Non-renewable Resource

Over time, all objects change or deteriorate as a result of environmental conditions, national forces of decay and use. How an object is handled, displayed, and stored can mean the difference between preserving it for many years or for only a short time. In the video to the left, contract conservator Ruth Cox explores the treatment of one work in the Museum's collection, Spring Turning, 1936, by artist Grant Wood.

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Collections Care and Conservation

A Non-renewable Resource 

From exhibitions and educational programs to publications and research, the Museum collections fuel almost all Museum activity. Preserving and protecting these collections are the most important ways that we serve our public. Museum collections are primarily a limited and non-renewable resource, having much in common with the resource concerns of the environmental movement in requiring careful management and ongoing conservation. The care of Reynolda House collections is one of the cardinal responsibilities of our staff and Board Members, and is an integral part of the Museum’s mission.

What is Collections Care?

Collections care encompasses everything from maintaining good inventory controls to making sure that proper pest control measures are taken. Today, the idea of preventive care, more commonly known by the term, preventive conservation directs how museum collections are taken care of on a daily basis. Controlling deterioration of art objects through the control of environmental factors that lead to damage is the basis of preventive conservation. This approach means providing optimal climate, storage and exhibitions environments as well as limiting light exposure and handling. For example, if you visit the Museum and do not see one of your favorite works, it may be because it has been rotated off view temporarily in order to reduce light exposure over time.

To learn more about the factors that contribute to the deterioration of paintings, download the brochure titled Tips for Preserving Your Paintings at the bottom of the page. 

What is Conservation?

Over time, all objects change or deteriorate as a result of use, accidents, environmental conditions, and natural forces of decay - age. How an object is handled, displayed, and stored can mean the difference between preserving it for many years or for only a short time.

The practice of conservation dates as far back as antiquity. Over the centuries, it has evolved, and by the early 20th century, large museum and public institutions had founded their own conservation studios. As conservators have come to better understand the chemical processes underlying treatments, they have become more conservative in their approach, namely, that every act of treatment should be reversible.  

In most cases, conservation treatment on an art object is focused on preventing further deterioration and stabilization of its condition rather than restoring the piece back to its original state. This effort is centered around preserving as much of the artist’s original work as possible rather than trying to recreate the artist’s vision.  

In the six-minute video shown above, contract paintings conservator Ruth Cox explores the treatment of the Museum’s work Spring Turning, 1936, by well-known artist Grant Wood. The Museum was awarded a grant from The Henry Luce Foundation for the treatment of this painting along with several other masterpieces in the collection. 

How can I help?

By becoming a member of the Museum, you help support the overall mission of Reynolda House and in turn, support the future of Reynolda’s collections. Click here to become a member of Reynolda House. Collections form the core of almost any museum’s visitor experience – if you would like to donate directly to a fund to preserve and care for the collections, please contact Rebecca Eddins at 336.758.5205.