Conservation Grants and Initiatives

The Samuel H. Kress Collection

Twenty-six European paintingsa remarkable gift to the MFAH from the Samuel H. Kress Foundationstand as a testament to the model of American cultural philanthropy exemplified by Samuel H. Kress and his incomparable legacy: a sense of public responsibility imposed upon great wealth, and a belief in the moral force of art.

Inspired by the Kress Foundation's initiative to improve awareness and access to paintings, the MFAH conservation department initiated technical studies of the 26 paintings. Museum staff has investigated, recorded, and performed technical imaging and scientific analysis on the artworks.

The goal of this ongoing project is to provide technical study reports on all the Kress paintings in the MFAH collection. As each report is completed, it is posted online to allow free access to anyone interested in the historical methods, materials, and techniques of master artists of the past.

Read more about the conservation of the Kress Collection, and access the full technical reports.

Conservation Grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Conservation scientists contribute to fulfilling the museum’s mission to preserve, present, and interpret its diverse collections by studying the materials and techniques used to create artifacts, the changes materials undergo as they age, and the impact of the museum environment on artwork.

In 2006, the MFAH was awarded a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support collaboration among the Conservation departments at the MFAH and Menil Collection, and create a comprehensive scientific research program that is unique in the southern and southwestern United States. The Department of Chemistry at Rice University is also a key partner in this initiative, ensuring access to scientific expertise in diverse areas of research, facilitating access to analytical instruments through the Shared Equipment Authority, and providing a gateway to the many benefits of a vibrant academic and research community.

In 2012, Andrew W. Mellon Research Scientist Anikó Bezur and Melanie Gifford, Research Conservator for Painting Technology at the National Gallery of Art, collaborated on Making of a Luxury Image: Van Aelst’s Painting Materials and Artistic Techniques, a study of Willem van Aelst’s painting techniques and materials in preparation for the MFAH exhibition Elegance and Refinement: The Still-Life Paintings of Willem van Aelst.

Corina Rogge serves as the Andrew W. Mellon Research Scientist at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in continuing collaboration with the conservation department at the Menil Collection and the chemistry department at Rice University.

Institute of Museum and Library Services Silver Storage Grant

An important part of conservation is stabilization and protection of objects. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has a large and diverse silver collection, which needs to be protected from certain environmental contaminants, such as sulfur, that cause the metal to tarnish. For this reason, Steve Pine, decorative arts conservator, developed a silver coating program. This program uses an acrylic coating to protect the surface of the silver, allowing it to be on view to the public with less stress to the object. 

To support the Museum in its long-term preservation of its silver collection, the MFAH was awarded a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). This grant enables the MFAH to store the silver in a centralized space within specially purchased storage cabinets. These sealed cabinets provide a sulfur-free environment for the silver, protecting the objects from environmental stress and contaminants while still allowing for a more public viewing of the entire silver collection.