From the second you buy an artwork, your collection starts to age and needs attention. 

As your art collection grows and ages, the demands get higher and higher. Luckily, there are online tools to help you preserve your collection with proper condition and conservation tracking. Learn how established collections around the country take care of their cherished artworks.

Introducing Artwork Archive’s Maintenance Tracking

Due to the high demand for conservation tools, Artwork Archive, an online art collection management system used by organizations like Neiman Marcus, Brown University, San Diego International Airport (SAN), Stanford Children's Health and Children's Hospital Colorado released a feature to help organizations track past and future maintenance events.

Easily track your maintenance efforts.

With Artwork Archive’s maintenance tools, you can log what maintenance was done, when, for how much, and by whom. Upload any relevant documents like a contract, treatment plan, material list or receipt. 

Once you’ve logged that information you can easily see past records. View maintenance performed for one piece over time. Need to know how the piece was treated in 2012? Pull up the object record and find the answer easily. Or, see the care of your collection broken down by year. Establishing these records also means that you can see what your restorers or conservators have done to date, which means you'll know who to call in the future. 

If you have to share this information, you can easily create maintenance reports with a click of a button. 

"The maintenance feature is a useful tool for tracking repairs and maintenance to artwork located in multiple satellites locations.” Children's Hospital Colorado

Establish a baseline for your collection.

One of our hospital users is undergoing a LARGE project. They’re doing condition reports on everything in their collection. Why is this important? Their curator shares, "creating condition reports allows us to get a baseline so that we can maintain the pieces as they were originally intended. For example, if there are cracks on the surface of the canvas, we need to monitor this. Those cracks may be stable, but when they start to lift, then we will need to take immediate action. Monitoring slight changes to the artworks will allow us to calmly protect the art through minimal conservation efforts when the timing is right.” 

Schedule upcoming treatments so you don’t forget.

Some of your pieces need routine care. Or, you may anticipate a cleaning or restoration in the future. Utilize the Scheduler to add reminders for upcoming conservation efforts. Sync your reminders with your personal email or phone calendar. And, receive a weekly email from Artwork Archive about your upcoming to-do’s. 

San Diego International Airport loves the Reminder tool:

We know that a particular piece needs a treatment every two years. I can put in a reminder every 18 months to make sure we are checking in. We are a small team. We get busy. We get bogged down. The reminder comes up even before I walk into the terminal.” Lauren Lockhart, Manager of SAN Arts

Understand the true cost of your collection.

With all of your maintenance records in one place, you’ll understand the true cost of your collection. You can view the maintenance cost of one piece. Perhaps it has exceeded its value in ongoing repairs? And, view the cost of maintaining your entire collection. This helps if you need to...

Make the case for deaccessions.

If your board, colleagues or benefactors are on the fence about deaccessioning a piece, arm yourself with data to make an informed decision. You can pull up the conservation history and cumulative cost for a piece in question.

Cut time in half as you monitor your collection on the go.

Remember the condition report project? Being able to access your object and maintenance records on a mobile device helps with projects like  these considerably. You're not tethered to your desktop and can update your account from where ever you are. 

“As I’m walking around the hospital and its grounds, I am actively documenting anything that looks suspicious. I take photos on my phone, and thanks to iCloud syncing, I can immediately upload it to my Artwork Archive account from that device or my iPad. I typically add notes while in front of the piece so that I don’t have to do any backwork. I am cutting my work in half, and it adds up when you’re dealing with as many works as we have.” 

Effortlessly manage volunteers. 

Many public art programs enlist the services of volunteers to assess their public art collection. For instance, Longmont Art in Public Places manages 15 volunteers. Each volunteer signs up to assess 3-5 pieces. They visit the work, take pictures if they need to, and do a quick write-up. All of this can be uploaded to the piece record on location. And, having all of this information stored in one place enables the program director to prioritize what maintenance needs to be done first, because not all public artworks are created equal. Some needs are more pressing, or locations more frequented.  

Quickly respond to natural disasters.

Hopefully your collection is protected from natural disasters, but we cannot control Mother Nature. And sometimes our systems to stop disaster end up creating damage—like sprinklers putting out a fire. 

Standing in front of a kinetic sculpture that was toppled in a hurricane? From your mobile device you can pull up the piece, create a new maintenance record, contact your conservator and schedule its repair, all within minutes.

Collaborate efficiently with your conservator.

With multiple user support, you can give your conservator a login. “It makes for great collaboration,” shares one of our users. The hospital's conservator, Lesley Bone, adds her notes to the object records. From Lesley,

”I am thrilled that I can access our Artwork Archive account from home so that I can work on my Condition Notes. I also appreciate how fast and easy it is to add or download photos and files—we have therefore been able to populate the records in a very short period of time. The ease of use also means that I tend to work directly into the record rather than having a note-taking step.”

Paper records slow you down.

The city of Palo Alto started acquiring artworks in the 70’s, which means that they have a lot of pieces that are 50+ years old. Public art coordinator for Palo Alto, Nadya Chuprina, shares, “suddenly you are facing a lot of pieces that need immediate attention because every artwork has a lifespan and its own threshold.” It’s incredibly time consuming to pull up physical records for those pieces. You have to sift through tons of paper and typed up notes making sense of what types of treatments have been done. “It’s a colossal amount of work,” shares Nadya.

Don’t reconstruct the timeline for your pieces. Scan and upload all of your artwork’s information so that years down the road, everything is located in one easy-to-access place. 

So, prepare for the future.

It’s crucial to document your collection because your collection will most likely outlast you. As time passes, new stewards of the collection need information to preserve the artwork. For instance, the paint for the outdoor sculpture may be discontinued and a restorer will need to apply a fresh coat of paint one day. Don’t waste time trying to physically match the color. Pull up the original paint brand and color and find a reasonable replacement. 


You've got the tips. Now get the tools to properly maintain your public art collection.