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The Kupferstichkabinett - Museum of Prints and Drawings encompasses one of the richest collections of European art from the Middle Ages to the present. The significance and variety of the collection is also reflected in the different drawing and printing techniques. Paper, produced in many varieties originally by hand and, since the industrial revolution, by machine, is the main support of the works of art owned by the Kupferstichkabinett. The conservators are entrusted with documenting, preserving, analysing and, if necessary, treating the collection according to current scientific standards and are also involved developing new conservation and preservation approaches. The Kupferstichkabinett is supported in its conservation mission through its international Conservation Advisory Council.
The responsibilities of conservation:
Prints and drawings, which are particularly sensitive to light and high humidity exposure, are exhibited only discontinuously under special conditions that also apply those artworks that are loaned to other institutions. Additionally, to support the artworks while they are viewed in the study room, the conservation department has developed special mountings. By securing the artworks through appropriate mounting and framing systems, and by preparing detailed documentation about the artworks' material condition, the conservation department also prepares artworks for the abundant national and international exhibitions that are supported by the museum through its loans.
Individual areas of the collection, for example the 19th-century cartoons that include large-scale charcoal sketches for wall paintings (some by Peter von Cornelius), constitute special long-term conservation projects that aim at improving surveying the condition and storage of artworks.
The growing collection of contemporary art, and the outstanding collection of illuminated medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, each also require specialized care. In particular, over-sized contemporary works that feature complex artistic techniques, may include ephemeral materials frequently require innovative mounting and storage systems. Besides these preservation projects, the conservators also support curatorial research, for example by updating the watermark index that helps curators to date old master prints and drawings.
The conservators also carry art-technological research that lends insight into artists' working methods and materials. For example, an analysis of the silver point drawings by Hans Holbein and Albrecht Dürer was recently conducted together with the Rathgen Research Laboratory (Rathgen Forschungslabor, RF) and the National Institute for Research and Examination of Materials (Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung, BAM). Currently, the drawing methods of Matthias Grünewald are examined in a collaborative project with the RF and the National Academy for Visual Arts in Stuttgart (Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart, SABK). Preservation, one important aspect of conservation, is also supported by research. For example, the conservation department investigated the quality of the solander boxes used for artwork storage in co-operation with the SABK. Additionally, members of the conservation department are cooperating in externally funded, long-term research and publication projects such as "Paper and Water: A Guide for Conservators".
The Kupferstichkabinett offers pre-program and graduate internships and supports of academic degree projects (Diplomarbeiten).