Dirt and Dirt Removal | Paintings Conservation

This is the first of six brochures in the series Paintings Conservation created for conservators of canvas and panel paintings wishing to keep up with the rapidly advancing techniques in their field. The brochure Dirt and Dirt Removal contains information on the following: what dirt consists of; how dirt bonds to the surface; the ethical reasons to remove surface dirt and the procedure for how to do so; and will provide an overview of selected methods and materials commonly used to remove surface dirt.

Knowledge exchange

Conservation practice has developed at an astounding pace. This knowledge is concentrated within a few large institutions with the capabilities to take major steps in the development and application of new methods. Smaller and medium-sized museums meanwhile do not have the resources to hire a permanent conservator for their collections, and often send paintings to be restored externally. For those not employed at large institutions, accessing such knowledge can be difficult. These brochures are designed to bridge this gap.

The need for this reference material became apparent during a series of masterclasses and conferences, organized in the period 2012-2020 by the Foundation for Cultural Inventory (SCI) in India, Russia and Cuba. These gatherings, focusing on mutual exchange and deepening knowledge in relation to the local contexts, were organized in association with SRAL - The Conservation Institute, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE), and Dutch embassies in the partner countries of the International Heritage Cooperation programme.

The brochures in this series on conservation are:

  1. Dirt and Dirt Removal
  2. Varnish Removal
  3. Consolidation of Flaking Paint (expected in 2022)
  4. Filling Losses in Paint (expected in 2022)
  5. Structural Conservation of Canvas and Panels (expected in 2022)
  6. Varnishing and Inpainting (expected in 2022)
Cover met daarop een schilderij van een straatje met huizen en een straatlantaarn
Image: ©RCE
Cover van de publicatie Dirt and Dirt Removal


Authors: Julia M. van den Burg (MA PD. Res.; Private conservator), Kate Seymour (MA (Hons, MA; Head of Education and Senior Painting Conservator, Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg)
Editing: Klaas Jan van den Berg (RCE), Lia Gorter (Foundation for Cultural Inventory, SCI)
Series Paintings Conservation: six brochures on conservation of works of painted art

Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, 2022.

The brochures have been written under the auspices and financial support of the International Heritage Cooperation programme of the RCE. All brochures will appear online in the course of 2022.