Thaw Conservation Center

The Thaw Conservation Center at The Morgan Library & Museum is a world-class laboratory for the conservation and technical study of the Morgan’s core holdings: drawings, prints, photographs, illuminated manuscripts, printed books, bookbindings, and literary, historical, and music manuscripts. The work of the Thaw Center is essential to the Morgan’s institutional mission, helping to preserve, document, interpret, and make accessible our extraordinary and varied collections. The Thaw Center’s activities encompass conservation treatment as well as a number of preventive conservation measures, such as environmental monitoring and protective housing of collections. Research and technical studies often involve collaboration with curators, museum scientists, imaging specialists, and conservators in allied specialties. Research results are shared in lectures, publications, and posts on the Morgan’s blog and social media platforms.

The Morgan has had a long-standing commitment to the conservation and preservation of its collections, with both book and paper conservators working on site as early as the 1950’s. The design and construction of the Thaw Center, which was completed in 2002 with support from Eugene V. and Clare Eddy Thaw, transformed the conservation program by creating a unified, state-of-the-art facility where book and paper conservators work together in spacious, purpose-built surroundings. Now occupying 5,600 square feet on the fourth floor of the historic Morgan House, the Thaw Center includes designated spaces and equipment for paper conservation, book conservation, matting and framing, exhibition preparation, collection rehousing, and specialized examination and imaging techniques. A seminar room and departmental reference library supports the Thaw Center’s education and outreach programs, which include lectures, classes, and workshops for students, educators,  conservation professionals and members of the public.

The Thaw Center is currently staffed by two book conservators, two paper conservators, one full-time preparator and two part-time conservation technicians. Generous funding from the Sherman Fairchild and Pine Tree Foundations has provided ongoing support for two post-graduate fellowships in book and paper conservation.

More from the Thaw Conservation Center

Corners and Edges: The Physical Evidence of Édouard Vuillard’s Sketchbooks

Several of the drawings included in Édouard Vuillard: Sketches and Studies come from sketchbooks spanning the artist’s entire career with dates as early as the 1890s to the 1930s. This exhibition provides the unique opportunity to learn about Vuillard’s preferred sketching materials. While preparing the drawings for installation, I looked for connections between them, with particular attention to similarities and differences in the physical evidence.

Inside Story: Using X-ray Microtomography to See Hidden Features of a Manuscript Codex

The Morgan’s collection includes a significant number of Coptic Christian manuscripts made in Egypt and dating from the fifth through the eleventh centuries. The Coptic collection is notable for its texts and illuminations as well as for a large group of early covers and binding fragments important in the history of bookbinding.

Taming the Wild Things: Storage Considerations for the Bequest of Maurice Sendak

Over 900 objects relating to Maurice Sendak’s (1928–2012) stage designs for The Magic Flute, The Cunning Little Vixen, Love for Three Oranges, The Nutcracker, and an opera based on Where the Wild Things Are arrived at the Morgan in 2013 as part of the artist’s extraordinary bequest. For many of us, the magic of Sendak’s books, in particular Where the Wild Things Are, live vividly in the memories of our childhood. It is thus both a delight and an honor to create a safe home for these wonderful objects.

Color and Curious Creatures: Fifteenth-Century Block Books at the Morgan, Part II

An earlier post discussed some of the traditional colors that appear in the Morgan’s block books. In most cases, the hand-applied colors are typical of the dyes and pigments seen in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. However, a few unexpected pigments were discovered during the study of these fifteenth-century books, enabling a better understanding of how some of them were changed over the centuries.

Color and Curious Creatures: Fifteenth-Century Block Books at the Morgan

The Morgan owns the largest collection of block books in North America and they were some of J. Pierpont Morgan’s earliest acquisitions. These are books in which both the images and the text are carved from a single woodblock, hence the term block book.

Hol(e)y Moly!: Historical Damage and Repairs in Medieval Manuscripts

When looking at a medieval manuscript, it is often the illuminations that catch the eye—colorful figures rendered in miniature, gleaming gold backgrounds, ornate initials that twirl and bloom across the margins. But beyond the illuminations, and even beyond the text, the substrate itself merits closer inspection.

Materials and Decorative Techniques of the Read Album Leaves

The Morgan Library & Museum holds a collection of fifty-seven Persian and Indian album leaves acquired by J. Pierpont Morgan from Charles Hercules Read in 1911. These leaves are collectively known as the Read Albums and are broadly divided into two groups, Persian (MS M.386.1–.21) and Indian (MS M.458.1–.36).

Looking at Works of Art on Paper: An Overview of Examination and Imaging Techniques

Drawing by Montagna details normal illumination and IRR comparison

Conservators in the Thaw Conservation Center (TCC) often spend time just looking at objects in the Morgan’s collection with the goal of understanding the physical structure of the object, the materials that make up the object, the support the object is made on, the techniques used to make the object, the object’s current condition, and even how the object may have looked at the time of its creation.

Preserving and Revealing the Museum’s Treasures

The Thaw Conservation Center at the Morgan is a world-class laboratory for the conservation of works on paper and parchment—drawings, prints, photographs, illuminated manuscripts, rare books, fine bindings, and literary, historical, and music manuscripts—as well as a place for conservation studies.

Conservation treatment of Haydn's The Seven Last Words of Our Savior on The Cross (Cary 508)

In 1786, the Clergy of the Cadiz cathedral in Spain commissioned Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) to compose The Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross. In 1791, a copyist’s manuscript of the full orchestral score, with annotations by Haydn himself was prepared for a series of concerts to be held in London.

From Drawing to Print: Abraham Bloemaert's Danaë Receiving the Golden Rain

Until the nineteenth century it was common for works of art to be disseminated in the form of prints. But how was an artist's work transferred from paper to printing plate? In this post, we take a close look at a seventeenth-century drawing by the Dutch painter, draftsman, and printmaker Abraham Bloemaert (1564–1651) and the engraving derived from it.

Edgar Degas

In the early 1890s, when Degas' work became increasingly less naturalistic, he produced a series of pure landscapes that freely interpret the scenery he encountered on his way to visit the painter and printmaker Pierre-Georges Jeanniot in the village of Diénay, near Dijon. There Degas produced about fifty monotypes, which he enhanced with vivid pastel work.

Ingres at the Morgan: Materials and Methods

Whether he was making portraits of family and friends or preliminary studies for important history paintings, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780–1867) created drawings of great subtlety and nuance. Close examination of the paper and media allows us to glimpse the working methods of one of the greatest draftsmen and portraitists in French history.

Jim Dine: Drawing with Light

Jim Dine was inspired by a 1984 trip to The Glyptothek in Munich, to create a series of figurative drawings based on Greek and Roman antiquities; they would ultimately function as positive transparencies in the production of the heliogravure prints (helio — "light"; gravure — "engraving") for his limited edition book Glyptotek, 1988.