The Laboratory for Scientific Restoration of Graphic Works (LSRGW) is one of the oldest laboratories in the State Hermitage Museum with its history closely connected to the museum’s history. The first workshop for graphic works opened in the 1920-1930s in connection with the collection expansion.
One of the brightest periods of the Laboratory activity is associated with the name of A.M. Anosova. She came to work at the Hermitage in the 1930s and dedicated her entire life to the museum. A.M. Anosova spent the hard years of the siege of Leningrad working at the Hermitage. In 1951, she established a Laboratory for Scientific Restoration of Graphic Works. She also headed the Department of Scientific Restoration of the museum for many years.
From 1979 to 2006, the Laboratory was headed by V.A. Kozyreva, art restorer of the highest category.
The laboratory currently employs art restorers of graphic works, experts in restoration of library and archival materials (book pages, documents and missive letters), a restorer of bindings and an editor (mounting of passe-partout on the works of graphic art).
About 25 000 works of graphic art of various techniques, books and documents from the State Hermitage Museum Fund and Archive have been restored and conserved over the period of existence of the Laboratory. The Laboratory experts restore fine print, watercolour, gouache, pastel, miniature drawings, Chinese New Year pictures Nían Hùa, books and documents. Basically, these are paper-based, but works made on parchment, bone and tetrapanax are arriving more often at the Laboratory. Conservation of bills, papyri and works of applied art (fans, globes) is also carried out in the Laboratory. Unique works of prominent Western European, Eastern and Russian artists and engravers of the 11th-21st centuries can be found among the exhibits arriving to be restored. The time range of documents and books to be restored varies from the 15th century BC up to the present day.
A very important aspect of the Laboratory activities is participation in the restoration commissions jointly with the staff of scientific departments. Restoration tasks for all exhibits coming to the Laboratory are discussed and approved at Commission meetings and then the restored exhibits are submitted to the Commission. For many years, the Restoration Commission for Graphic Works has been headed by I.S. Grigorieva, Head of the Division of Drawings in the Department of Western European Fine Art. In 2013, O.G. Zimina, Deputy Head of the Scientific Library, headed the new Restoration Commission for Books and Library and Archival Materials.
The Laboratory routinely receives works of art from the museum funds either because of their extremely poor state of preservation, or within the framework of preparation of exhibitions in Russia, at the State Hermitage Museum and its branches. The Laboratory does a lot of work for preparing for exhibitions abroad. In connection with the exhibition concept, whole collections of monuments of smaller size (from a few dozen to a few hundred) are often restored.
Today in the Laboratory there could be simultaneously hundreds and sometimes thousands of items from the collections of various departments. Sometimes one exhibit requires several restorers. For example, during the restoration of albums containing both drawings and fine prints a graphic restorer, a restorer of book pages and a bookbinder have to work together.
LSRGW experts find new ways to solve highly complex tasks, develop techniques, refer to the experience of foreign colleagues; they maintain cooperation and establish new contacts with leading museums and restoration centres throughout Russia and other countries. Over the last period, the Laboratory has established fruitful contacts with the M. I. Rudomino Russian State Library of Foreign Literature (Moscow), and the St. Mesrop Mashtots Matenadaran Institute of Ancient Manuscripts in Yerevan (Research Centre under the Government of the Republic of Armenia).
Along with extensive restoration practice, Laboratory experts conduct systematic surveys of the museum collections in order to determine the state of preservation.
Organisation of preventive conservation activities with books and documents in the collections is ongoing: production of boxes, folders, containers, protective cases of museum cardboard both automatically and manually, and document encapsulation is being introduced gradually.
Another important area that has emerged in the Laboratory in recent years is the design of works of graphic art. The number of works requiring passe-partout mounting has increased significantly due to the increased number of exhibitions, the upgrade of permanent exhibitions, and the emergence in the State Hermitage Museum of the Department of Contemporary Art. The editor designs graphic works for a large number of exhibitions, as well as for storage in the collections. The editor also makes passe-partout and various cases for missive letters and documents in accordance with individual projects.
Currently, a sector specialising in the restoration of manuscripts and early printed books, various documents, including bills, missive letters and papyri is being established in the Laboratory.
All the Laboratory activities are aimed at preserving the unique collection of graphic works, book heritage, vast documentary collection of the State Hermitage Museum with the support and close cooperation with the custodians of scientific departments, researchers at the Department of Scientific and Technical Expertise and Biological Control. Restorers of graphic works can publish the results of their practice and share their scientific achievements in periodicals issued by the Printing and Publication Department.