Talk Like a Conservator

When you visit Restoring an American Treasure, you might hear some unfamiliar words and phrases thrown around. Here’s a handy guide to help you talk like a conservator.

  • Conservation: The restoration and preservation of works of art.
  • Consolidation: The process of re-adhering loose paint to a canvas. Conservators spray a gelatin solution on the panorama to consolidate the existing paint.
  • Distemper: A type of paint made by mixing pigment and an animal-based binder. Used frequently in the 19th century, distemper has a matte, dry-looking appearance. The panorama is painted with distemper.
  • Friable: Easily crumbled or reduced to powder. The paint on the panorama has become friable over time and needs treatment to remain stable.  
  • In-Painting: The process of re-coloring areas of a painting that have lost their pigment. The conservators of the panorama use watercolor crayons for their in-painting.
  • Toned: Stained with color. In some areas of the panorama where paint has been lost, the canvas has been toned with the original color. This helps the conservators determine what colors to use in their in-painting.


  • Overpainting: The process of painting over areas that still have original paint. Conservators often use overpainting to correct or clean up areas of earlier restoration.

Hear or read any other puzzling words? Ask about them in the comments!

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