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Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design, Corcoran Gallery of Art conservation department records

 Record Group
Identifier: COR0005.2-RG

Scope and Contents

This record group contains records generated by the office of the Corcoran conservator over the lifetime of its operation, beginning with independent conservators contracted for work in the Corcoran Gallery building and collections. Material types include condition reports for works of art, conservation journals, correspondence, photographs, and charts documenting the environment in the galleries. Records date from 1882-2019.


  • 1882-2019

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to research.

When conducting research within The Corcoran Archives collections, please be advised of the following restrictions:

Records of the Board of Trustees (RG 1.0) and records of the Office of the Director (RG 2.0) are closed to research for 25 years from the date of creation.

Development records are closed to research (RG 3.2).

Access to student records is governed by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the privacy of student education records. Student records are closed for the lifetime of the student, and are presumed to be open 75 years after the date of record creation (RG 9.0 Series 4).

Personnel and financial records are closed for 50 years from date of record creation (RG 4.0).

Please see the Public Services and Instruction Librarian for assistance.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that the institution owns copyright, the donor has assigned the copyright in its works to The George Washington University; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For activities that the researcher determines fall under fair use as defined under U.S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. Please contact Special Collections if the copyright status of the materials you wish to reuse is unclear. Staff will provide additional information. For re-use of materials in the collection not created by the donor, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights, determining if the intended re-use falls under fair use, and obtaining approval from the copyright holder if the intended use does not fall under fair use. For such materials, researchers do not need anything further from The George Washington University’s Special Collections Research Center.

Historical narrative

The following history was prepared in 2019 by George Washington University SCRC staff with the support of the Luce Foundation.

According to accounts in the Corcoran Gallery of art Directors’ records, paintings in the collection began to be sent out for repairs and touch-ups as early as 1886.

In 1946, the need for a regular program of care and conservation of the works of art in the collection was stressed during Board of Trustees proceedings, and in 1948 the Board of Trustees authorized the appointment of Harold F. Cross as the staff conservator, as well as the “necessary renovation and equipment” for a conservation laboratory. In 1951, Russell J. Quandt began his twenty-year affiliation with the Corcoran as its conservator. Robert Scott Wiles was the affiliated conservator from 1971-1983.

Prior to 1983, the Gallery’s painting conservation was conducted by a private conservator using the Corcoran’s facilities on a contractual basis. In order to better serve the needs of the collection, in 1983 the Corcoran established a conservation lab and hired full-time staff conservator Dare Hartwell. Dare Hartwell was responsible for the general care of the entire collection and treatment of paintings.

The conservation department’s initial focus was on equipping the lab. Through matching grants from The National Endowment for the Arts from 1983-1986, the Gallery purchased over $45,000 worth of new conservation equipment. During this time, the Corcoran also completed a major climate control project that allowed for improvements in control of the environmental conditions within the building.

Between 1984 and 1987, Dare Hartwell conducted a general condition survey of all collections, storage and museum environments. While Hartwell treated paintings in the collection as time permitted in the course of her duties, the Corcoran obtained additional grants throughout the 1980s and 1990s to hire and contract outside professionals to survey and treat other types of objects in the collection. Specific grants from a variety of organizations including Getty Trust, Institute of Museum Services, and The National Endowment for the Arts allowed for the treatment of sculptures, works on paper, and textiles. Throughout all grant projects, the Corcoran Gallery curators worked closely with Hartwell and the contracted conservators.

In 1989, Dare Hartwell initiated a multi-step restoration project of the Salon Dore, the Corcoran’s 18th-century French period room donated to the Corcoran in 1926 as part of the bequest of Montana Senator William A. Clark. The project included the removal of layers of dirt and overpainting from the walls and ceiling, restoration of damaged gold leaf by specialized craftspeople, and reproduction of the curtains weaved by French fabric house Tassinari & Chatel. The project completed with installation of the new curtains in 2001.


16.75 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Organized into 6 series: Early Conservation records; Harold F. Cross records; Russell J. Quandt records; Robert Scott Wiles records; Dare Myers Hartwell records; and Conservation files transferred from the National Gallery of Art.

Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site, and will require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Corcoran Institution Board of Trustees donated these records to The George Washington University in 2016.

  • Art Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
  • Artists Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
  • Museums Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
  • Washington (D.C.) Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
Guide to the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design, Corcoran Gallery of Art conservation department records, circa 1882-2019
University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

2130 H Street NW
Washington 20052 United States of America