The Costume Institute's Conservation Department supports an active curatorial program of exhibitions, publications, and loans through its preservation, conservation, and technical research of the 35,000 objects in The Costume Institute's collection. The newly renovated Conservation Laboratory opened in the Anna Wintour Costume Center in Spring 2014 and is a flexible, state-of-the-art studio that includes dedicated areas for microscopy, solvent cleaning, treatments, and dyeing.
Conservators in The Costume Institute excel in the unique practices and theories of costume and textile preservation and conservation, with specific expertise in haute couture garment construction, the creation of custom mounts for storage and exhibition, digital documentation methods, and technical analyses. The department is responsible for setting guidelines for the storage, handling, and display of the collection.
Recent research conducted in the lab includes the 3D documentation and rendering of historic garments and storage mounts, use of innovative digital technologies for loss compensation, treatment of foxing on cellulosic garments, and material characterization of historic metal threads used in haute couture ateliers. A major ongoing research area for the lab is the preservation, analysis, and treatment of costume artifacts containing synthetic polymers.
The conservators in The Costume Institute work closely with other departments and conservation labs at the Museum, including the Scientific Research Department and The Photograph Studio. They are also active in conservation education, providing lectures for specialized groups, students, and the general public. Students and recent graduates of conservation programs complete internships and fellowships in the lab as integral members of the conservation team, learning from the professional expertise of The Costume Institute's conservators and engaging in the active schedule of the department.