Ask a conservator
Do you wonder about how best to take care of your most precious possessions? Or about how to become a conservator?
The National Museum’s conservators ensure that everything in the museum’s collection is kept in the best possible condition. They look after dresses, drawings, paintings, sculptures, furniture, porcelain, jewellery, architectural models and everything in between!
During ‘Ask a conservator day’, our conservators answered many questions from members of the public. Here you can see some of the answers. Perhaps you’ve been wondering about some of these things too?
How can I take care of my things?
- How should one care for old furniture that’s made of completely untreated wood?
- I have an old plank of wood from 1894 with pencil writing on it. How should we preserve it for the future?
- I have some old jærstoler that are rather dirty [classic Norwegian chairs with woven straw seats]. How can I clean the seats?
- I’ve got a christening photo that’s over 20 years old, and it’s turned yellow because of nicotine. What can I use to clean it?
- How should I care for leather-bound books that are over 100 years old?
- I have a watercolour from 1820 that has gone mouldy. Is keeping it a health hazard? What do I do to hang it on the wall again?
- I put a map in a frame. The paper is buckling behind the glass. Is it because of damp? How can I get the map to lie flat again?
- What’s the best way to care for an old Bible from 1809? Currently it’s in a plastic bag on a bookshelf.
- I have some Japanese woodcuts that have been framed behind Artglass. Not in a bright place. How much will the colours fade?
- What was the single most time-consuming project when you were getting ready for the new museum?
- What’s the best way to store silver and gold jewellery when it’s not in use?
- How do you go about conserving works made with multiple craft techniques (like a clock)?
- How can I remove flecks of paint from a bronze object? I don’t think there’s any treatment on the surface.
- How should I store old medicine bottles with paper labels?
- I have an old leather suitcase that’s got worn around the edges. Should I rub some oil into it?
- I have a thin cotton blouse, an heirloom belonging to my partner. It’s about 100 years old. How should I wash/store/iron it?
- I have a silk bridal shawl from 1890s. How can I remove grease/finger marks? Is it important to clean it? How should I store it?
- What is the best way to take care of a 1940s silk wedding dress that has some rust marks? Can it/should it be cleaned?
- Can I paint on wool? If so, what should I add to tempera in order to preserve the wool?
- How should I take care of an embroidered christening robe made of fine cotton? It’s a bit yellow. It’s about 80-90 years old.
- How should I take care of a silver fox stole from the late 1940s?
- One of the Munch paintings looked ‘shinier’ than the others. Did a conservator add something to it?
- How should I clean an old oil painting that’s been exposed to cigarette smoke for years? I’ve already tried using a potato.
- We have a 1950s mural on our staircase, faded and the paint is flaking. How can we clean it and bring back the glowing colours?
- How can I clean a painting that’s been very badly affected by smoke?
About working as a conservator
- How do you get to be a conservator?
- How do you get a job as a conservator at the National Museum?
- What does a paper conservator do? What’s your ordinary working day like?
- How can we be sure that digital art will be preserved for the future?
- What are the most important lessons for an amateur about taking care of old objects?
- What are the most working hours you have spent on a single object?
How do I become a conservator?
In Norway, you can train as a conservator at the University of Oslo (UiO), which offers a master’s degree in the conservation of paintings and objects . Since training in Norway is limited to paintings and objects, many people choose to study abroad, where more options are available. See the website of the Nordic Conservator Association – Norway (NKF-N) for some useful links to educational institutions abroad.
The conservators at the National Museum have a wide range of expertise. Below you can read how some of them trained as conservators.