History Nebraska Blog

Care, Preserve, Treat

In terms of preservation, the Ford Conservation Center in Omaha, Nebraska, is one of the state’s best-kept secrets—and we’re trying to change that! We are the only regional conservation lab between Minneapolis and Denver, and we want more Nebraskans (and Iowans and Missourians and Kansans and South Dakotans!) to know what we have to offer. 

What is the Ford Conservation Center?

A division of the Nebraska State Historical Society (NSHS), we are a regional conservation center that helps to care for, preserve, and treat artifacts. Ford Center conservators and technicians are proud to provide these services for NSHS collections as well as the public.

 exterior, Ford Conservation Center

Exterior of the Ford Conservation Center.

The Ford Center has a small staff of conservators and technicians working in three labs. The objects lab treats a wide variety of decorative, utilitarian, and ethnographic objects made from materials like leather, metal, stone, and wood. The paintings lab treats paintings on canvas and panel (wood). The paper lab treats a range of paper-based materials, like original art on paper, documents, prints, photographs, and books.

Hilary LeFevere, work on paper, microscope

Paper Conservator, Hilary LeFevere, examines a work on paper under the microscope.

What exactly does ”care for, preserve and treat artifacts” mean?

As conservators it is our job to preserve and physically conserve important artifacts for the future. An item is deemed important by its caretaker, not us. Artifacts can have historic, educational, monetary, or sentimental value or fall into all of these categories.

Sometimes preservation simply means rehousing a book in an archival box to protect it from light and dust exposure. Sometimes it means making recommendations for displaying a damaged leather saddle. And other times it means repairing tears and mold damage to a client’s great-grandfather’s citizenship paper. Every artifact that comes to the Ford Conservation Center is given the same degree of care regardless of its origin. 

Kenneth Be, Cleaning painting     

Kenneth Bé cleaning a painting.

Can anyone use your services?

Although we work for the NSHS treating collection items owned by the state, we also have many museum, university library, and private clients. Any person interested in having an artifact examined or treated is welcome to contact a conservator at the Ford Conservation Center through our website, or by calling us at 402 595 1180. We treat items at both ends of the spectrum, from large historic paintings in excellent condition to mold-covered, insect-infested maps that literally have to be quarantined! No artifact is too large, small, broken, cheap, or silly for us to examine.

  Vonnda Shaw, technician, places wrapped object in freezer for pest remediation     

Conservation Technician, Vonnda Shaw, places an object wrapped in plastic in a freezer for pest midigation.

What information is on the website?

Our website can be reached at https://history.nebraska.gov/conservation-center.  The Labs page includes links for getting in touch with conservators and gives pricing for our services. The FAQ page addresses how to make an appointment and appraisal information.  The Resources page has a great selection of printable PDFs written by Ford Center conservators to give free and practical advice on caring for a range of materials from outdoor sculptures to books.

screen shot of Ford Center Resources page

Screen Shot of the Ford Centers Resources Page.  This information can be found here.

Yearly memberships start at $32

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