Profile

The range of duties of the conservators in museums is complex. In an exhibiton orientated museum such as the Deutsches Historisches Museum (DHM) where many exhibitions are presented each year, the duties of conservators extend far beyond the administrative work to include the preservation and conservation of objects in the workshop as well as the complicated tasks of safely displaying works of art and historical objects in the museum. The conservators contribute their comprehensive interdisciplinary expertise to the complex communicative and organisational processes involved in this profession.

The variety of conservation workshops, that comprise the conservation departments of the DHM, deal with the broad range of objects in the collections. They consist of the collection of the former Museum für Deutsche Geschichte (MfDG) of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the Deutsches Historisches Museum of West Germany which had been collecting since 1987. The collections of the MfDG, which were based on the inventory of the old Armoury (Zeughaus), were transferred to the Deutsches Historisches Museum after the Council of Ministers of the GDR resolved to close down the MfDG in 1990 after reunification.

One of the main purposes of the DHM is to preserve the collection for future generations.  This collection is constantly being researched, while a portion of the objects are on display. The objects are cared for by the conservators who as experts can assess their condition and the best way to deal with them in storage, during transport, for exhibitions and as loans to other museums.

Conservators take care to establish the proper environmental conditions which an object – whether stored or displayed – requires. This includes, for example, the light levels and exhibition lighting, the relative humidity and air quality as well as the technically correct presentation of the objects in exhibitions. This correct presentation is one of the many priorities in the work of the conservators, particularly with respect to the areas of textile, metal, paper and book exponents.

Conservators study material technology of the objects, resolve questions regarding the authenticity of an artwork or object as well as the dating, condition and ageing of the objects. The results of these examinations determine to a great degree the conservation and/or restoration measures that have to be undertaken.

Many objects only attain their particular significance in their historical context. It is therefore a special feature of the work of the conservators in a historical museum to focus on this aspect.

The conservation department, which is located in the archive building in Geschwister-Scholl-Strasse, has a total of 13 permanently employed conservators and temporarily employed colleagues. Immediately after reunification the conservators from the Museum für Deutsche Geschichte and the newly formed Deutsches Historisches Museum formed a team consisting of colleagues from East and West who have achieved – in their eyes a notable – and lasting success story of “German-German” rapprochement in cooperative and professional practice.

Bilder aus den Restaurierungswerkstätten