The aim of the Department of the Restoration and Preventive Conservation is to ensure the conservation of all the works in the MNAC collections. The Department helps to guarantee the physical conservation of all the museum’s holdings, including both works on exhibition and in storage, on deposit or on loan, whilst also seeking to delay as far as possible the ageing process that affects the materials that form the artworks. In addition, the Restoration and Preventive Conservation Department also studies the materials and the technical aspects of works with a view to providing scientific and technical assistance for art historians specialising in different periods, promoting dialogue and interdisciplinary studies.
At the centre, professionals from different specialist disciplines study problems affecting the works, or changes they are undergoing, determining the causes of deterioration and doing their utmost to eliminate any risk to the works. In this regard, a key aim is to create a stable environment and to establish the best conditions for exhibiting, storing, handling, packing and transporting works. Basically, the centre seeks to minimise deterioration to the collections by ensuring that the most appropriate environmental conditions and exhibition systems are provided, as well as exercising strict control over the movement of objects and the restoration treatments applied to individual works.
Most of the activity at the centre is concerned with prevention, but due importance is also attached to reparative treatment and restoration. Restoration work is aimed at improving the aesthetic reading of pieces on which, very often, restorers from much earlier generations have previously intervened, working according to criteria very different from those applied today. Needless to say, restoration is not carried out in the hope of returning works to their original state; but rather, to take into account the passing of time and any work that has already been carried out on the piece, and which now forms part of the history of restoration in Catalonia in general.
On this point, we should remember that the MNAC Department of Restoration and Preventive Conservation owes much to the thorough reorganisation it underwent at the hand of Joaquim Folch i Torres whilst he was director of the Museu d’Art de Catalunya, particularly from the 1930s onwards, when the Museums Board sent Manuel Grau i Mas to train under Mauro Pelliccioli, then director of the restoration laboratories in Milan, attached to the Pinacoteca di Brera art gallery. The Milan laboratories had a decisive influence on how restoration work was carried out all over Europe. Work continues today with a view to establishing the MNAC Department of Restoration and Preventive Conservation as a reference and resource, which may operate separately from the museum itself, in terms both of the working methodologies and the rigour and the criteria that the centre applies.
The centre is staffed by scientific personnel devoted to preventive conservation and chemical laboratory work, and by a team of curators and restorers specialising in various disciplines, in accordance with the types of works that form the museum collections: restoration of paint on canvas and transferred painted murals; paint on wooden panels; polychrome wood sculpture; furniture; artwork on paper and photography; and stone, metal and ceramic.