Selected multimedia resources about the MoMA collection


Conservation of Jackson Pollock’s One: Number 31, 1950. 1950

Conservation of Vasily Kandinsky’s Panel for Edwin R. Campbell No. 2

Conservation of Henri Matisse’s Dance (I)

Digital Publication

Project Sites


An extensive list of conservation terms can be found on the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website CAMEO (Conservation and Art Materials Encyclopedia Online).


An emulsion is a combination of two or more liquids that do not blend easily on their own, such as oil and water. A common example of an emulsion is a vinaigrette salad dressing, in which you might use egg yolk to keep the vinegar and olive oil from separating. Similarly, painters can use egg yolk to emulsify oil paint and water.


Enamel paints are household and automobile paints that are formulated to be very fluid. They are typically opaque and rich in pigment, since they are designed to cover a surface in a single coat of paint. Enamels can use an array of different binders that include alkyd (a modified linseed oil), acrylic, latex, and oil. Abstract Expressionist artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning were among the first to regularly use enamel paints in making works of art.


A stain is a thinned paint made with a considerable amount of solvent. Stains are absorbed into the canvas, rather than remaining on its surface.

Palette Knife

A palette knife is a type of spatula typically used to mix paint on the palette. It can also be used to apply paint directly on the canvas and to remove it from the canvas.


Paint is most often a combination of pigment, binder, and solvent. Pigment is the colored portion of the paint. It is often a finely ground material that is either found in nature or artificially produced. Binder holds the individual grains of pigment together. In oil paint, the most common binder is linseed oil, which typically dries to the touch in about one week. The binder in most acrylic paint is an acrylic resin; the binder in watercolor paint is a natural resin called gum arabic. Solvent is a liquid that thins the paint. The most common solvent in oil painting is turpentine. Water is the solvent for acrylic emulsion and watercolor paints.

Turpentine Burn

A turpentine burn is made by soaking a rag in solvent and scrubbing the canvas directly. This technique removes paint and leaves a stain on the canvas.

Tint, Shade, and Tone

In painting, a tint is a color plus white, a shade is a color plus black, and a tone is a color plus gray.


Viscosity is the thickness of a liquid. Low-viscosity liquids are very fluid (such as water) while high-viscosity liquids are quite thick (such as molasses). The viscosity of oil paints is usually reduced by adding binder (such as linseed oil) and/or solvent (such as turpentine). At a lower viscosity, paint can be brushed onto the canvas more freely and quickly.


Also available in Spanish.


Also available in Spanish.

Areas of expertise

The conservation of MoMA’s collection is done by multiple departments which often collaborate on mixed-media projects. Find out more about each of these expertise areas.


The conservation of technology-based works like video-, audio-, and computer-based art are the responsibility of the media conservators at MoMA, the newest conservation section at the Museum.


Painting conservators work mostly on paintings in the collection, mostly from the Department of Painting and Sculpture, which range from traditional oil painting on canvas to experimental paint media used by contemporary artists.


Paper conservators care for collections in the Museum that are principally paper such as drawings, prints, books, and posters, as well as some ephemera in curatorial collections.


Photography conservation is responsible for the preservation and conservation of photo-based works in the collection of the Department of Photography as well as all the other curatorial departments that have photos in their collections.


Scientific research at MoMA is dedicated to analysis and research related to the Museum’s collections. This includes identifying materials that artists use in creating their work, conducting research to better understand and store the collection, and to develop new materials for conserving works.


Sculpture conservation is responsible for a very wide range of objects in the collection, from bronze sculpture to plastic design objects to kinetic sculpture and beyond.