Gerald Ford Conservation Center

mural of Transfiguration behind alter.  Scaffolding set up in front of mural.

Over the summer, Kenneth Bé, Ford Center Paintings Conservator, spent a week in a little town in Kansas.  Surrounded by the beauty of the Kansas plains, Kenneth worked to clean a mural that had already survived so much.


panoramic photo of brick church on the open plains

man removes varnish with cotton swab from section of portrait of man

Not every piece that comes into the Ford Center gets treated right away.  Sometimes there is a backlog that builds up if a lot of work comes in to the labs, but sometimes objects are brought in to be assessed for later treatment.  For instance, a museum may bring in a work of art to get a proposal and use the estimate to fundraise for the cost of treatment.  It is a great opportunity for museums to share information about the importance of caring for their collections. 

two women wash white dress in large sink

As you've no doubt heard by now, the Nebraska History Museum is celebrating the opening of a new exhibit later this month. The Ford Conservation Center helped to restore some of the artifacts that will be featured in the exhibit.

Tarnished copper alloy trophy before treatment

During World War II, the US Army Air Force would practice bombing runs in preparation for battle.  They had designated bombing ranges where pilots could drop the bombs at a safe distance.  Unfortunately, one Nebraska town learned the hard way that practice does not always make perfect.  In the wee hours of August 16, 1943, a practice bombing run dropped six bombs on Tarnov, NE, mistaking the town lights for the bombing range. Thankfully no one was injured.

Interior of attic bedroom, with window, floral wallpaper, extensive damage, hanging fragments

The original wallpaper in the attic of Willa Cather's childhood home is an artifact with a rich historical and literary significance. Our conservators are helping the National Willa Cather Center preserve its material & historical context.

Learn more about their process.

Before treatment photo of Advo Coffee Ad, in pieces, covered in dirt.

This Great Depression Era hand-painted ad for Advo Coffee was in bad shape when it arrived at our Ford Conservation Center.

It was split into pieces, warped, and caked in dirt. It took the combined expertise of three conservators to give this piece of history new life.

After treatment photo of dog painting signed by Richard Speck

The staff at History Nebraska, including staff at the Ford Center, have spent the last year or so talking a lot about "curiosity".  We've had workshops and discussions about why people are curious, what they are curious about, how to increase and nurture our own curiosity to make our jobs easier and our output better.  One of the discussions was on topics that people are universally curious about.  These include things like: themselves (people everywhere are curious about themselves!), things we don't talk about in polite society (think death, sex and money), f

"Caution, May Be Loaded" label on box containing firearm.

"Caution, May Be Loaded" label on box containing firearm.

"Caution, May Be Loaded" label on box containing firearm.

After treatment photo of Lincoln certificate in raking light.

Not every project we work on at the Ford Center has dramatic before and after results.  Sometimes, the most important work we do is to stabilize an artifact for its long-term preservation.  Sometimes, the object doesn’t look much different from when it was brought in.  This was true for a document we treated for the Nebraska History Museum’s Nebraska Sesquicentennial exhibit.  It is a certificate appointing Alvin Saunders as the governor of the territory of Nebraska. The document is signed at the bottom right by Abraham Lincoln.

It's always satisfying to see a restored piece come out of the Painting Lab, but this work we did for the Frontier Army Museum really brought this painting back to life.

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