Restoring Artwork and Treasures at a Chicago Conservation Lab | Chicago News – Google Alerts

A Chicago company is dedicated to preserving artworks and heirlooms from around the world. We visit The Conservation Center, the country’s largest private conservation lab for a look at how they are rejuvenating an artful piece of Chinese history.


Jay Shefsky: Birds sculpted from stone. Bamboo leaves carved from jade. Scenes of China etched in rosewood.

These are all facets of an imperial screen given to Emperor Qianlong in the 18th century. Its 10 panels are being meticulously cleaned and preserved to rejuvenate the screen to its former glory.

Heather Becker, CEO, The Conservation Center: Sometimes things come in and you say “This is a moment in time that is very special.” That piece has been slowly deteriorating since the year 1791, and of course it was in this incredible museum but it had a lot of issues.

Shefsky: The screen came from the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art.

The museum, dedicated to the art of cutting and polishing stone, recently vacated its longtime home in Elmhurst. It will reopen in a larger space in Oak Brook this fall.

When we visited the Conservation Center, this museum treasure had been dismantled, and a team of furniture conservators was midway through a multilayered treatment.

  • WTTW videographer Tom Siegel films the conservation process of an 18th century Chinese screen.

  • WTTW videographer Tom Siegel films the conservation treatment of a painting.

Steve Ryan, conservator: Right from the get-go, the craftsmanship was excellent, obviously. You could look at it and go, “Wow, this is as good as it gets.” In terms of Chinese screens, I’ve worked on a lot of them over the years but this is definitely the best.

Shefsky: They estimate the project will take more than 600 hours to complete.

Ryan: It’s a big project. There’s lots of steps to it. It needs a lot of work so we have been…

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