The holdings of the prints and drawings collection encompass over 50,000 works on paper dating from the 12th century to the present. When paper is protected from such harmful influences as light, moisture and temperature fluctuations or mechanical stress, it can be preserved for a long time. For this reason the prints and drawings collection has its own conservation workshop with a trained staff to care for its holdings. Its task is to document the condition of the artworks and to take suitable measures in order to preserve them and when necessary to undertake conservation treatments.
The precious holdings of the prints and drawings collection are stored into two open-plan facilities measuring a total of 400 square metres which correspond to the most modern technical and security standards. The temperature remains at a constant 20°C ± 2°C and 50% ± 5% relative humidity. The works are kept in safes and cabinets to protect them from light and a large part of the holdings are placed in specially-made boxes. The task of the paper conservator particularly involves implementing measures intending to protect and preserve the holdings. The high-quality storage material used for passepartouts, folders and envelopes are acid-free, ageing resistant and contribute to optimising the immediate environment of the collection’s holdings. Measures taken to protect the artworks includes climate and pest control in the storage areas, the study room and the exhibition spaces. In addition the conservators are responsible for their safe transportation both in-house and when sent as loans to other institutions. These measures are more effective and also much less cost-intensive than a complicated subsequent conservation treatment.
Each and every work of art is unique, it contains history. The paper bears traces of use in addition to artistic and material-related information. Through a normal ageing process papers can turn brown and brittle. Is the paper artwork exposed to too much light and climate fluctuations this ageing process can highly increase. Within high humidity mould and foxing stains can breed and ink corrosion can change for the worse. Also insects can leave marks and holes on paper or humans can cause folds, creases or losses through an incorrect handling. The choice of the conservation treatment relies on the condition of the artwork. The basic principle of all conservation interventions is that nothing irreversible is to be carried out and that the measures may not dominate the perception of the artwork. The conservation measures employed in the prints and drawings collection not only reflect the newest technical and scientific insights but also take the historical and artistic position of the works on paper into account in addition to their part in the history of the collection.