Glossary of conservation terms


An invisible separation between the layers of paint, between the paint and ground, or between the ground and support. This may appear as a slight bulge in the paint surface.


Removing non-original layers from the paint surface. These layers may be surface dirt, varnish or overpaint. See surface cleaning, uncovering and varnish removal.


A separation between layers of paint, between paint and ground, or between ground and support. Usually associated with cracks and losses. See flaking.


A report listing the observations of an inspection. It can be used as the first part of a Treatment Proposal and as a reference when objects are transported or loaned. Depending on what it is used for it can include a description of the object including historical background, assumptions about original techniques and materials, previous interventions including added materials, present condition that notes deterioration and changes, possible causes of deterioration, and recommendations for handling, storage and treatment. The format is often a combination of text, graphics and photographs.


“all measures and actions aimed at safeguarding tangible cultural heritage while ensuring its accessibility to present and future generations. Conservation embraces preventive conservation, remedial conservation and restoration. All measures and actions should respect the significance and the physical properties of the cultural heritage item.”
From International Council for Museums, Committee for Conservation, 2008 » ICC Conversation


Addition of an adhesive or consolidant to friable powdery original material such as water damaged plaster or rotten wood.


It is a small sample of original paint mounted in a polyester resin so the layer structure can be examined under the microscope.


A reinforcing material, usually tissue paper, temporarily adhered to the surface of a painting. Facing ensures that loose paint particles are temporarily secured, and protects the paint surface during conservation treatment.


Material replacing lost paint or paint and ground so that the area of loss becomes level with surrounding paint.


A common term for the treatment of flaking paint that uses an adhesive applied beneath the flakes to reattach them.


An unstable condition in which areas of paint or paint and ground become detached.


An opaque white or coloured coating applied to the support as a base for the paint layers. The materials used for the ground vary. Also, called a priming.


Applying new paint on areas where original paint has been lost or abraded.
Other term: Retouching


The process of adhering a new fabric to the back of a painting on canvas. Lining also refers to the fabric itself. Applying a new fabric to the back of a painting that has previously been lined is called relining. See strip lining.


The process of adhering a painting to a rigid auxiliary support panel.


Paint, not applied by the artist, that covers original paint and that is often an excessive and unnecessary alteration to the image. Overpaint hides areas of damage or is used to make cosmetic changes to the image. In wall paintings it can be a later paint scheme or lime wash that hides the original.


Actions taken to remove or mitigate conditions that are causing deterioration. They usually require modifying the immediate environment or methods of handling and storage.


Treatment that stabilizes the condition of an object. Usually done when an object is in danger of immediate damage.


Treatment that reinstates missing or damaged elements with the goal of facilitating the understanding, appreciation and use of an object.


A traditional term that has been used synonymously with inpainting. However, inpainting is more precise because retouching can also imply overpainting so that original paint is covered.


A type of lining where new fabric is adhered along the canvas tacking margin to reinforce weak and split fabric.


Treatment that removes surface dirt.


A deposit of dust, dirt, grime, nicotine, soot, or other contaminant on the surface of a painting.


The part of a canvas that wraps around the edges of the stretcher or strainer and that is held by tacks or staples. Other term: tacking edge


A report that makes recommendations for conservation treatment. It is usually added on to a condition report and may include an estimate of time and cost.


A type of cleaning that removes layers of overpaint. With wall paintings it often means removing layers of plaster or lime wash.


A clear solution of resin dissolved in oil or solvent, which dries to form a transparent film. Traditional varnishes consist of natural resins, such as mastic, dammar, or copal. Recently, various synthetic resins have been used. Varnish is usually used as a final surface coating over a finished painting to even out the gloss, to saturate the colours, and to protect the paint.


A type of cleaning that removes old varnish.