One of the most important functions of an art museum is preserving and protecting its collections. An intricate marriage of both art and science, art conservation involves researching and assessing the needs of the works of art, implementing preventative treatments, and repairing damaged or deteriorating objects. With a collection numbering over 24,000 objects that span 5,000 years of cultural history, the DMA has an important responsibility to ensure its works of art are properly cared for.
Paintings Conservation Studio
The DMA’s Paintings Conservation Studio is located on the top floor of the Museum’s South Concourse. Featuring high-quality technology, the Conservation Studio serves as a center for study and treatment of works of art, as well as for research into cutting-edge conservation techniques. The retractable design of the studio’s windowed walls allows visitors to interact with the DMA’s conservators when projects of particular interest or importance are underway. Through this unique component of public access, the DMA aims to provide visitors with a deeper understanding of how works in the collection were made, what has happened to them since they left the artists’ hands, and how the Museum ensures that they are preserved for the future.
An adjacent Conservation Gallery, which is open to the public, was designed to teach visitors about key findings gleaned through conservation-related study and treatment. The gallery’s inaugural exhibition, Behind the Scenes, features paintings from the DMA’s collection installed on pedestals so that they are visible from both front and back.
Fran Baas, Interim Chief Conservator
Fran Baas is the Interim Chief Conservator at the Dallas Museum of Art. She joined the DMA as the Associate Conservator of Objects in November 2013 and was promoted to full Conservator and Interim Chief Conservator in October 2019. As the leader of the conservation department, Baas works closely with Museum colleagues to integrate the activities of the conservation program across every area of the collection. She has worked on a number of significant conservation projects for the DMA, including the technical study and conservation treatment of The Wittgenstein Vitrine, the co-owned Yayoi Kusama Accumulation chair, numerous textile treatments for the Arts of the Americas and Arts of Africa departments and the large-scale repainting of the Museum’s iconic Mark di Suvero sculpture, Ave, and Tony Smith’s Willy.
Baas has spearheaded and/or participated in several deep dives in technical analysis on art objects in the DMA's collection for different curatorial divisions and external collaborators. She organized the exhibition Not Visible to the Naked Eye: Inside a Senufo Helmet Mask with Dr. Roslyn A. Walker, Senior Curator of the Arts of Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific and The Margaret McDermott Curator of African Art; the Dallas Zoo; and UTSW. She is currently working on an analysis project with Dr. Michelle Rich, Assistant Curator of the Arts of the Americas; the Menil; and the Met surrounding a Chimú Prisoner Panel textile. She has been successful in the partnerships with local hospitals, medical professors at UTSW, and scientists for studies linking the DMA with sophisticated instrumentation and specialized scholars.
With an expertise in the field of objects, preventative conservation, and textile conservation, Baas has previously worked in conservation departments at the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, the Barnes Foundation, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and Historic New England. She has also held positions in collection management and exhibition departments at museums across the country, including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.
Baas is a graduate of the SUNY Buffalo State College Master’s Program in Art Conservation, where she specialized in object conservation. Baas obtained her BA and her first master's in Museum Science from Texas Tech University.
Laura Eva Hartman, Paintings Conservator
Laura Eva Hartman is the Paintings Conservator at the Dallas Museum of Art. She joined the DMA in October 2015 to work alongside Mark Leonard in establishing the formal Paintings Conservation Department at the DMA. Hartman undertakes the examination and treatment of paintings in the DMA’s collection, as well as of loaned works for special exhibitions, working closely with colleagues in the curatorial and conservation departments. Notable projects include contributions to the Van Gogh and the Olive Groves exhibition and catalogue and significant treatments for works in the DMA’s collection, including Jackson Pollock’s Cathedral, Louis Anquetin’s Woman at Her Toilette, and Rufino Tomayo’s Nude, to name a few. Hartman has published widely on the use of new and innovative treatment techniques developed at the DMA.
Hartman has spearheaded various national and international collaborative projects at the DMA. Recently, she was awarded a Getty Foundation Conserving Canvas Project Grant that focused on the exchange of resources and knowledge regarding tear mending techniques with colleagues in Latin America, resulting in the treatment of several works from the DMA’s modern Latin American collection. She has also partnered with Art Bridges on the treatment of Edward Steichen’s significant mural series In Exaltation of Flowers, working with four conservation interns in a visible gallery space throughout the project, and most recently on the treatment and study of Henry Ossawa Tanner’s extraordinary work The Thankful Poor.
Hartman received her M.S. degree from the Winterthur/University of Delaware program in Art Conservation. She has held positions at institutions including the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, Spain, the Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery in Den Haag, Netherlands, the Yale University Art Galleries in New Haven, Connecticut, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Beginning in 1984, the DMA maintained a small conservation studio devoted to the treatment of objects, which was managed by one full-time objects conservator. For decades, until the July 2012 appointment of Mark Leonard as Chief Conservator, the Museum’s paintings collection received consistent care and treatment from professional conservators in the North Texas region.
The DMA first began raising support to expand its conservation program in 2010, catalyzed by a generous (and strategic) lead gift from an anonymous donor. With Leonard’s arrival two years later, plans were set in motion for design and construction of a new conservation facility. In November 2013, the DMA’s new Paintings Conservation Studio officially opened to the public, signaling the launch of a larger-scale, in-house conservation program.