The restoration workshop is an essential part of all five of the Museum's collection departments. The original divisions between the collections by material and technique have essentially remained unchanged from the Museum's foundation to the present. There is restoration of wood and furniture in the Furniture Collection, of all kinds of ceramics and glass in the Ceramics and Glass Collection, of metal and precious metal in the Metalware Collection, and of all kinds of textiles, carpets, tapestries and costumes in the Textile and Costume Collection. The Small Collections Department has a restoration workshop for paper and leather, but owing to the diversity of materials, the restorer also deals with other organic materials. Where needed, it also restores paper and leather items for the Archive and other collection departments.
The restorers all have professional qualifications and are artists as well as trained experts in their fields.
Since the restorers each work within the confines of their respective collection departments, the museologists and restorers hold regular consultations on the preservation and restoration of the items. The results of their work is constantly visible in the Museum's historical exhibitions. Where necessary, for example owing to the size or other aspect of the art work, external restorers also work on the Museum's holdings, drawing on the expertise of Museum staff.
The Museum's restorers are also involved in restorer training as lecturers and consultants. The museum objects which come back to life in the hands of newly graduating restorers are the subject of an annual exhibition.
Restoration demands thorough grounding and expertise, but also a kind of humility, because it is concerned with objects from another age which can only be faithfully reconstructed if the materials and techniques are thoroughly understood and approached with professionalism. A basic demand is that nothing should be done to the object which is irreversible, and nowadays the main emphasis is on preservation. An ethical problem arises from the issue of additions, especially if there is no credible source recording the original state of the object.
It is highly complex work, and changes with the times, because restorers have to know the latest techniques, such as modern materials testing procedures. The need to conserve and provide the right protective environment for art works in both stores and exhibition spaces has recently become a rising priority, and the restorers are called upon to implement this. The advice and activity of restorers is also essential to enable art works to be transported, exhibited and installed.
Every store and restoration workshop in all of the collection departments has been subject to a comprehensive survey involving more than a hundred criteria, combined with reports on the utilisation of stores (area cover, space utilisation). This work will form the basis for the Museum's medium-term art work protection plan and for drawing up grant application priorities.