THE OHIO ART CONSERVATION CENTER:
“Only in Oberlin.” That’s the motto of the quaint college town of Oberlin, Ohio. And a unique place it is for many reasons. And for Ohio the motto is “The Heart of it All.”
Although our art conservation facilities are located on a 50 acre farm 4 miles from the edge of town, the McKay Lodge Art Conservation Laboratory has 27 years of association with the town of Oberlin and is itself unique – a very unique conservation services center.
And from this country’s “heart” we venture out to work in almost every state of the Union.
The McKay Lodge art conservation center continues the tradition of making Oberlin the place to go for artifact and art conservation services, a tradition going back to the 1952 founding of the first cooperative art conservation services center for nearby museums (hence called a “Regional Art Conservation Center”). That was the Intermuseum Conservation Association (ICA) operating the Intermuseum Conservation Laboratory on the campus of Oberlin College.
ICA has since relocated, leaving McKay Lodge Art Conservation Laboratory, Inc. in its place to keep Oberlin as Ohio’s center for art and historic objects conservation, hence our facilities registered name is “The Ohio Conservation Center.”
It took a while but after our first 22 years (by 2012), gross conservation services revenue of the Oberlin privately owned art conservation center exceeded that of the relocated non-profit art conservation center by nearly 3 times (2.9 times). In 2013, the last year financial information is available online, the comparative increase was 2.1 times. That’s remarkable considering McKay Lodge Art Conservation Laboratory, Inc. opened in 1989 with a large, well-equipped facility but no clients. It was a leap of faith in the potential of the new services model.
This dramatic increase may simply be related to our focus, which is very much oriented toward treatment services; a strong, necessarily grant-funded, educational element is not in our mission and thus does not distract us from our services work. But we wish also to conclude this phenomenal success is due to our reputation for relatively low cost services made possible by the operational efficiencies of a for-profit structure, the wide variety of services we offer, and to our prompt effectiveness in solving material preservation problems.
Nowadays, almost all museums of any moderate or greater size are certainly well aware of art conservation, its practices, and its benefits to collections. The model of a grants-funded “regional” art conservation organization of the 1950’s is now seemingly outdated. At the same time, the growth of conservators establishing private practices has boomed. And these conservators tend to carry a sense of obligation to provide education gratis, to client museums and to collectors, to the public, to other conservators, and to students. Change has been afoot for a couple decades.
By surprise or not, the success of the for-profit model of McKay Lodge Art Conservation Laboratory, Inc., its operational efficiencies, its lack of need for salaried grant writers, and its volume of services rendered, leads to the financial strength and the profits that allow us to supplant grant funded educational activities with self-funded educational activities as well as corporate giving. We certainly cannot afford to host large educational activities, neither with time nor money, such as workshops and conferences which require and deserve grant funding; but then we do not need General Operating Support just to enable us to conduct now common professional income-generating services such as condition assessing and treatments. Art conservation services today can, and should, be fully self-funded. We are self -supporting. We are in a position of being able to give rather than take.
Welcome to Oberlin.
Pleased to be a Corporate Member and Supporter of
OHIO CITIZENS FOR THE ARTS