Art Conservation

The Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields has a conservation staff that conserves, maintains, preserves, and researches the Museum’s collection while adhering to national and international codes of ethics and care.  

Conservators and conservation scientists are professionals with advanced training in art history, science, studio art, and related fields with exceptional expertise in their area of specialization. 

Our dedicated team ensures we meet our mission to enrich lives through exceptional experiences with art and nature and aids our commitment to stewardship, excellence, and more. 

The Department is staffed by conservators with specializations in paintings, works on paper, textiles & fashion, and objects & variable art, as well as a conservation specialist, conservation technician, an administrative coordinator, and a chief conservator. 

The IMA Conservation Department is housed in a 7,700-square-foot laboratory in the Museum’s main building. The lab was founded in 1970, since the Museum has been in its current location at 38th and Michigan. 

The IMA Conservation Science Department is housed in a 3,000 square foot state-of-the-art analytical and research laboratory for the study of artists’ materials that was founded in 2010.  


Contact Us

Find a conservator in your area      How to become a conservator


Useful tips on how to care for your collections can be found via University of Delaware, the National Park Service, and the Canadian Conservation Institute



Gregory Dale Smith, PhD, Otto N. Frenzel III Senior Conservation Scientist  

Dr. Smith previously served as the Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Conservation Science at SUNY Buffalo State College, one of only three graduate programs for comprehensive art conservation training in the United States. He holds a Ph.D. in physical/analytical chemistry from Duke University and has completed postdoctoral research at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, and University College London. 

Smith’s research interests include studying condition issues affecting modern polymers used in art, pigment degradation processes, preservation environments, and the development and testing of innovative conservation treatments. He also has performed archaeological fieldwork in Galilee, Israel, serving as field chemist and supervisor on two excavations. 

Smith has authored numerous articles for journals in the fields of chemistry and conservation, and is an avid speaker on the interface between the Arts and the Sciences. For these efforts he was recognized in 2018 with the national award for Conservation Advocacy from the American Institute for Conservation (AIC). He is a Professional Associate of the (AIC), associate editor for the Institute's professional journal, and an executive board member of the local section of the American Chemical Society. 



Frederick Wallace, Chief Conservator 

Fred Wallace has a nearly 30 year-long career in art conservation. Before coming to Indianapolis, Wallace held the position of Chief Conservator at both the Cincinnati Art Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio (2001-2004) and The Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Virginia (2010-2016).  

More recently, in 2017, Wallace established Infinity Art Conservation Enterprises (IACE), a full-time conservation private practice based in Hampton, Virginia. As Director of IACE, he provided high caliber conservation services to various institutions, corporate entities and private individuals throughout the southeast region of the state. Wallace holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA, and a Master's degree from the Art Conservation Program of the State University of New York College at Buffalo.  

At the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, Wallace oversees the administration of the Conservation Department and supports its staff in its mission to conserve, preserve and research the museum’s collection and establish standards within the museum that meet or exceed national and international codes of ethics and care. In his role, Wallace advises on all conservation projects spanning all mediums of the collection. 

Meet the Team





    At nearly 15 feet tall, Nam June Paik’s Who’s Your Tree is a commanding presence in the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, truly living up to its name in evoking a tree. It has long been a favorite piece in the contemporary collection, and it was a must-have for The Message is the Medium: Contemporary Art. However, conserving this complex sculpture was no easy task.  



    Diabolo (neige et fleurs) by Joan Mitchell is a tremendous example of an abstract expressionist painting by a trailblazing female artist, and it’s now on view in Work in Progress: Conversations about American Art. The fluid, colorful brushstrokes overwhelm the viewer with their dynamism. Mitchell painted Diabolo in 1969 after moving to a house in the French countryside that once belonged to Impressionist painter Claude Monet. During this period her paintings became much more brightly colored, and she was inspired by her natural surroundings.  



    The exhibition, Stephen Sprouse: Rock | Art | Fashion, is closed, but it is not forgotten—in fact numerous departments are coming together as you read this newsletter to deinstall the exhibition and prepare each artwork for long term storage as part of our permanent collection. Since most of these activities occur behind closed doors marked “Staff Only,” we thought this article was the perfect opportunity to open these doors and invite you to see behind-the-scenes.



    There are things happening behind the scenes at museums that may seem unimaginable, including at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. One of them is the careful deconstruction and reconstruction of a designer dress in preparation for Stephen Sprouse: Rock | Art | Fashion. My name is Kris Cnossen, I am studying art conservation at the University of Delaware, and this was one of my assignments during my year-long internship at Newfields. For three months, I researched materials and techniques, drew patterns, and made mock-ups of a Stephen Sprouse (1953-2004) velvet and plastic dress until I finally took it apart completely and then hand-stitched the dress back together. 



    Over ten years ago, The Miraculous Draught of Fishes tapestry was deemed too fragile to remain hanging above the limestone staircase in the original Clowes Pavilion inside the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The decision was made to remove it from the galleries, but unlike most artworks that are not on view, the tapestry didn’t quietly wait in storage; this artwork spent the last six years travelling across the world and being examined by experts.  



    There is a new robot in the Conservation Science Lab that is transforming the way we understand our collection using big data!  Thanks to a generous gift from John and Sarah Lechleiter, Newfields has a new Macro X-ray fluorescence scanning (MA-XRF) instrument. Why is this technology so exciting? By collecting and processing so much data, the robot helps us to answer questions we didn’t even know we had. We have had the robot for a few months, and we have already discovered hidden inscriptions and even paintings under other paintings. 



    For many, the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the word ‘conservation’ is environmental conservation, particularly at Newfields which is home to 152 acres of habitat that supports wildlife and the community, but what most people outside of the museum world may not think of is the conservation of our art collection. Both areas of conservation have the same overarching goal, to maintain a vibrant Newfields for current and future generations by being good stewards of our campus, finances, and collection, and both have been at the heart of Newfields for generations. The Indianapolis Museum of Art has maintained an in-house Conservation Department for decades, dating well back into the last century. Still, many members and guests are not familiar with the Conservation Department and the breadth of its responsibilities. What the heck does an art conservator do at the Museum? Read on to find out!



    David Miller has spent 42 years getting up-close and personal with some of the world's greatest paintings - close enough, for example, to find a hidden truth in the underlayers of a Rembrandt portrait, tipped off by an earlier position of the artist's hat. The discovery led to a major victory-dance moment for the IMA.


As grant and donor funding allows, the Conservation and Conservation Science departments periodically take on interns, fellows, and postgraduates for various opportunities. Any available opportunities can be found on the Newfields Jobs Page.


Paper conservation Lab

The Paper Conservation lab is responsible for the care, treatment, display, and analysis of more than 20,000 works on paper, primarily from the Prints, Drawings, and Photograph Department, the Asian Art Department (with prints and paintings executed on both paper and silk), and the Contemporary Department. Although many of these artworks are traditional, two-dimensional pieces, the Museum’s contemporary works on paper also include experimental works featuring unorthodox media and configurations. It is the conservator’s role to assess the material and condition of each work and to map a safe course of storage and display protocols to best preserve the unique characteristics of each artwork. 


Painting Conservation Lab

The Paintings Department cares for works of art that span most areas of the IMA’s collection. Conservators of the Painting Conservation Lab focus on the examination, preventive care, and hands-on treatment of the paintings and frames.  

Technical examination is carried out when the conservator wants to understand further details about the materials and construction of a painting, either for art historical research or for information to aid with the conservation treatment.  




Objects Conservation Lab

The Objects Conservation Lab provides preservation, technical study, and research of all three-dimensional works across all the curatorial collections at the IMA. Staff are actively involved in a wide variety of projects across the Museum's campus—from the storage and exhibition of artworks within the main building to the outdoor sculptures surrounding it. In addition, the team manages the conservation strategies for projects and collections associated with The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, the Lilly House and The Garden, and Miller House in Columbus, IN. Additionally, the objects lab cares for artworks that defy traditional media and possess a changing observable state. Such artwork can involve variable presentation formats, include time-based media and electronic components, or be conceptual or site-specific artworks.  


Textile Conservation Lab

The Textile Conservation Lab is responsible for caring for the Museum’s Textiles and Fashion Arts collection, as well as fiber and fabric based works across all other areas of the collection. Objects range from archaeological textile fragments to modern upholstered furniture, and include  needlework, woven and printed fabrics, quilts,  rugs, tapestries,  fashion from around the world,  synthetic fibers, and contemporary fiber art. The lab frequently collaborates with colleagues in other conservation specialties, particularly the objects conservation lab, owing to the broad range of materials encountered among these works. 

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conservation science Lab

We’re one of a handful of museums in the country with a fully equipped science lab on site with high-end instrumentation devoted to the study of artists’ materials.

The Conservation Science lab operates instrumentation in most of the major areas of the analytical sciences including spectroscopy (molecular and elemental), microscopy (light and electron), and separation science (gas phase and liquid phase) as well as a handful of more esoteric techniques.  Staff in the lab come from diverse fields such as archaeometry, forensic science, analytical chemistry, photophysics, and biochemistry.    

Conservation scientists contribute to the body of knowledge surrounding the artwork including its authorship, age, authenticity, and state of preservation. They work closely with the conservation and curatorial staff to conduct applied scientific research on the museum’s collection and collaborates with other museum and industrial scientists to pursue basic or fundamental chemical studies of artists’ materials.  The scientist works with conservators to gain a better understanding of artworks undergoing conservation treatment. This information can be vital in selecting appropriate materials and methods for the repair of artwork or for selecting appropriate storage or display conditions.



Corneille de Lyon (Netherlandish, active in France, 1500/1510–1575), Portrait of René du Puy du Fou (detail), about 1550, oil on wood panel, transferred to canvas, 6-11/16 × 5-7/16 in. (panel); 9-5/8 × 8-3/8 × 1-5/8 in. (framed). Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, The Clowes Collection, 2014.86. Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890), Landscape at Saint-Rémy (Enclosed Field with Peasant), 1889, oil on canvas, 30 × 37-1/2 in. (canvas); 39-1/2 × 46-7/8 × 4-1/4 in. (framed, Optium), Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, Gift of Mrs. James W. Fesler in memory of Daniel W. and Elizabeth C. Marmon, 44.74. Paul Gauguin (French, 1848–1903), Landscape near Arles (detail), 1888, oil on canvas, 36 × 28-1/2 in. (canvas); 3 × 35-3/4 × 3 in. (framed, Optium). Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, Gift in memory of William Ray Adams, 44.10. Robert Indiana (American, 1928–2018) and Lippincott, LLC (American), Love (detail), 1970, Cor-ten steel, 144 × 144 × 72 in. Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, Gift of the Friends of the Indianapolis Museum of Art in memory of Henry F. DeBoest. Restoration was made possible by Patricia J. and James E. LaCrosse., 75.174. © 2024 Morgan Art Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Sol LeWitt (American, 1928–2007), Wall Drawing No. 652, Continuous Forms With Color Acrylic Washes Superimposed (detail), 1990, Lascaux acrylic wash on wall, 30 × 60 ft. Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, Gift of the Dudley Sutphin Family, 1990.40. © 2024 The LeWitt Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Hendrik Mattens (Flemish, –1670) after Raphael (Italian, 1483–1520), The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (tapestry) (detail), about 1630, wool, 162 -1/4 × 195-1/4 in. Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, The Clowes Collection, 2016.372.