Almost every item viewed by a visitor to the National Portrait Gallery—and many not on display—has been touched by a Portrait Gallery conservator. Charged with caring for the collection—and preserving it for years to come—the staff works with every medium, from paper to video. Conservators are involved in remounting and framing fragile works, cleaning stained or damaged objects, repairing tears, and assessing materials for acquisition, treatment, and potential loan.
For works created with computer-based technology, a digital arts team made up of curators, conservators, installation specialists and registrars meets regularly to discuss strategies and protocols for acquisition, documentation, installation and long-term preservation storage. The NPG digital arts team works closely with staff at the Smithsonian’s Data Asset Management System (DAMS) office to devise methodologies to track the integrity of the artists’ digital files to ensure that these artworks can continue to be enjoyed long into the future.