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Collections FAQ

Conservation is the process and profession devoted to the long-term stabilization and protection of cultural materials. One of the primary responsibilities of The Mariners’ Museum is conservation of all the art and artifacts in its collection, over 35,000 items including ship models, nautical instruments, prints, paintings, and other objects. Proper conservation of the collection involves repair and stabilization of old damage and prevention of new deterioration, so that the objects will remain in good condition for generations to come.

Conservator is the title used for a professional who has specialized knowledge, training and skills in the arts, sciences, and other fields for use in the care and preservation of cultural material. Conservators at The Mariners’ Museum are involved in a variety of projects, ranging from the careful restoration and preservation of paintings to the large-scale USS Monitor Conservation Project.

The care and treatment of artifacts from the USS Monitor is undertaken by a seven person staff of conservators, technicians, and support personnel. Conservation of the Museum collection is directed by Frederick Wallace, Chief Conservator Of Museum Collections. The sole conservator at the Museum dedicated to care of the permanent collection, Wallace teams with various other museum staff to best address the extensive and on-going needs of the vast collection.

 

FAQ

Various kinds of procedures are undertaken by conservators to care for the items in the museum collection. Some examples of conservation procedures are as follows.

Examination: to determine the materials and method of manufacture, and the causes and extent of alteration or deterioration.

Documentation (written and photographic): to record the state of condition, detail the materials and methods used in treatment, and report observations and conclusions made during the conservation of art and artifacts.

Restoration Treatment: to restore good physical condition and appearance, and retard deterioration. Restoration treatment can include repair of structural damage, cleaning to remove foreign matter (dirt, etc.) and discolored coatings, and inpainting to restore the appearance at damaged areas.

Preventive Treatment: to minimize future deterioration by maintaining appropriate environmental conditions (temperature, relative humidity, light levels, etc.) within the museum, and establishing policies that promote collection preservation.

Scientific analysis and research: to identify and characterize how art and artifacts have been made throughout history, and evaluate the effectiveness of conservation procedures and treatments.

Detail of a portrait painting marred by splotchy, discolored overpaint from old restoration work.

Detail of a portrait painting marred by splotchy, discolored overpaint from old restoration work.

Portrait painting after recent conservation treatment. The splotchy overpaint was disguised by adjusting the color with new inpainting.

Portrait painting after recent conservation treatment. The splotchy overpaint was disguised by adjusting the color with new inpainting.

Ship painting shown before treatment. The picture is darkened and obscured by grime and old, discolored varnish.

Ship painting shown before treatment. The picture is darkened and obscured by grime and old, discolored varnish.

Ship painting during surface cleaning. The left area is uncleaned; the middle area has been cleaned of grime; the right area has been cleaned of both grime and discolored varnish.

Ship painting during surface cleaning. The left area is uncleaned; the middle area has been cleaned of grime; the right area has been cleaned of both grime and discolored varnish.

The Mariners’ Museum is a collecting institution. We rely on the generous donation of artifacts from public and private sources as a way of expanding or filling gaps in the collection. To discuss a donation please contact the Collections Department. When contacting the Museum please include a full description of your object, its history, and several detailed photographs.

After we receive your initial inquiry you will be contacted by a staff member who will gather additional information about the object and present your donation to the Museum’s Collections Committee. The Collections Committee is the Museum body responsible for the oversight of the collection and is composed of staff from several different departments. The committee, which meets once a month, will evaluate your object and determine whether to accept it into the Museums collections.

If the Committee accepts your donation you will be contacted by the Office of Collections Management to complete the donation process. You will be asked to sign a Deed of Gift, which is the document that officially transfers the ownership of the object to The Mariners’ Museum. On that document you will be asked to assign a value to the object and record how you wish the donation to be recognized. Once the paperwork is completed, the Office of Collections Management will make arrangements to have object brought to the Museum.

Contact us at:

Collections Department
(757) 591-7764
collections@MarinersMuseum.org

Or mail to:

Collections Department
The Mariners’ Museum
100 Museum Drive
Newport News, VA  23606

If you are unsure of how to place a value on your object there are several methods you might find helpful in locating the fair market value of your item. The easiest method is to research your object on the Internet to see how dealers or other sellers are listing similar items. Catalogues of auction houses like Christie’s or Sotheby’s may also be useful in determining an appropriate value. If you are still unsure, please contact the Office of Collections Management or the attending curator for additional assistance.

If you wish to have a certified appraisal completed for your object, the following websites may provide information on appraisers in your area:

  • International Society of Appraisers
  • American Society of Appraisers
  • Appraisers Association of America, Inc.
  • American Association of Independent Appraisers

Each of these organizations offers a directory of appraisers by specialty and some directories allow you to search for specific specialties by location.

While the Museum can provide assistance in locating an appropriate appraiser(s) it cannot commission the work to be completed on the donors behalf.

If you intend to take a tax deduction and your object is valued at or over $5,000.00 the Internal Revenue Service requires that a certified appraisal be performed within a period of sixty days of the donation.
The cost of having an appraisal completed on a donated item(s) is the responsibility of the donor. If necessary, the Museum will facilitate the process by provided access to or photographs of the object.
Only a small portion of the Museum’s extensive collections are displayed within the galleries at any one time. In an effort to display as much of the collection as possible the Museum maintains an active exhibition program and a changing gallery devoted to themed displays of typically unseen segments of the collection. Uses of the collection include loans to appropriate institutions; as illustrations in publications, films, and on the Internet; in educational and public programs; and objects always available for research purposes. Unfortunately, the Museum cannot guarantee that a donated object will placed on display and cannot acquire objects with restrictions regarding usage and display.
You can make an appointment to see materials currently in storage by contacting the Office of Collections Management at (757) 591-7764 or (757) 591-7759.

Please read our Outgoing Loan Policy statement for information regarding loans. As a matter of policy, and to preserve dwindling storage space, the Museum does not accept loans of materials not specifically related to its current exhibition program.

The staff of the collections department can help identify objects and can undertake simple research aimed at providing additional information about an object’s history. To begin the process please send a thorough description of your object (including inscriptions or marks), provide an overview of any known history or provenance, and several detailed photographs to the collections department. Upon receipt, the inquiry will be forwarded to the appropriate curator or researcher who will send an answer as quickly as possible.

Contact us at:

Collections Department
(757) 591-7764
collections@MarinersMuseum.org

Or mail to:

Collections Department
The Mariners’ Museum
100 Museum Drive
Newport News, VA  23606

If you are unsure about the authenticity of a piece of scrimshaw it is usually a good idea to check the publication entitled Fakeshaw: A Checklist of Plastic “Scrimshaw”. This wonderful little publication was produced by Stuart Frank and The Kendall Whaling Museum and contains the most comprehensive information regarding synthetic scrimshaw. A searchable format of the publication is available on The Kendal Whaling Museum’s website.
The most complete and up-to-date list of ship model repairers and restorers can be found on the website of the Nautical Research Guild.