Over the course of six months, IPARC worked on La Saulaie, a 19th century oil painting by Alfred Verwee badly in need of conservation care. Both frame and canvas were expertly repaired and restored by Painting and Polychrome Conservator Stijn Lenaerts before being reinstalled at Tienen Town Hall.
But the project was anything but ordinary. It is one of the first conservation projects worldwide to have a multifaceted condition history with videos and specialized checks that Tienen Town Hall and IPARC used to communicate about progress in an entirely new way.
Always at the forefront of innovation in the care of cultural heritage and artworks, IPARC have since decided to offer Virtual Curator multimedia condition reporting on all their quotes.
For Stijn, using Virtual Curator on the La Saulaie project was a lot more than just adding some additional photos to his usual condition report. Through the use of Treatment Progress Checks, he was able to record each step of his work in the condition history of the painting. This documentation included photos and notes on the testing of different solvents and techniques for varnish removal, which he hopes will be used as reference by other conservators working on the painting in future.
As well as photo or video documentation and notes, these Virtual Curator checks include the name, signature, and GPS coordinates of the documenting user. A time and date stamp adds further precision to this permanent record that, once complete, cannot be altered or erased and works as a legally verifiable audit trail.
Testing of solvents and varnish removal, plus images as seen from Virtual Curator Treatment Progress Check.
One of the most radical aspects of using Virtual Courier for IPARC was the addition of video.
Speaking about how the use of video has changed IPARC’s approach to condition reporting, Stijn said: “It was a bit of a discovery at first. We had to think ‘what are the possibilities when adding videos?’ Well, for example, if there’s a loose part of an object you can take a picture, but it won’t show that it’s not well fixed. With video, you can show that there are parts that are loose and how loose they are. It gives an incredible insight in the stability of the object.”
IPARC’s implementation of video in their process served to not only evolve their condition reporting but helped to strengthen the human connection during the conservation process. Often conservators are the ‘person behind the curtain’ and showing them working with the object brings awareness to their expertise and commitment to their craft.
“It’s also interesting to show the way an object is cleaned and how meticulously we do it, so the customer is aware of the work that has been done and that it has been done with care. [Video] gives them a lot more information about the treatment” – Stijn Lenaerts, Painting and Polychrome Conservator, IPARC.
IPARC took video documentation to the next level with their time-lapse footage of installation. In the Installation Check, not only is the installation process clearly shown but all tools and required experts were showcased as reference for future installations of the work.
Virtual Curator: Viewing an Installation check with time-lapse footage.
IPARC also used Virtual Curator to communicate with Tienen Town Hall throughout the entire project. In the past, this communication happened during lengthy in-person visits. But during the pandemic IPARC had been forced to use a hodge podge of unsecure email, Whatsapp, and video conferencing software to keep clients in the loop. With Virtual Curator, it was the first time since the start of the pandemic that they were able to do everything securely and all in one place.
“In many projects, there are multiple parties involved so to be able to share information between all these different parties is very convenient for us. We have clients follow up on restorations and make decisions with us remotely, and this was an excellent tool to do that” – Leen Gysen, Managing Partner, IPARC.
Effective communication is invaluable for any organization – particularly during recent pandemic restrictions – but, for IPARC, introducing Virtual Curator into its conversations with clients also supported the company’s sustainable values. Not only were they able to save time and reduce unnecessary journeys to the workshop, in many cases, they were able to eliminate client travel altogether.
The post-conservation La Saulaie at Tienen Town Hall, Belgium.
Using Virtual Curator, IPARC created a detailed and multidimensional condition record throughout the six-month conservation of La Saulaie. Secure sharing helped them communicate effectively with clients while saving the time of in-person progress visits. And should La Saulaie ever need to be moved or require additional treatment, its multimedia condition history is permanently stored in Articheck for future reference.
“Virtual Curator has changed our processes quite drastically. It is a really fast way of making condition checks in a clear and standardized way, which is especially good for our big team” – Leen Gysen, Managing Partner, IPARC
IPARC, the International Platform for Art Research and Conservation, is one of the world’s premier conservation and restoration institutions. Based in Brussels with clients across Europe and beyond, it offers a comprehensive suite of services including conservation and restoration, research and analysis, Integrated Contamination Management, art storage, and climate monitoring.
Interested in multimedia condition reporting? Find out more about Virtual Conservator & Virtual Curator.