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The Museum Conservation Institute- Taking Care


We provide information so you can learn how to preserve stuff

Getting Estimates for Conservation, Repair, Insurance, and Appraisal

To find out how much a repair or conservation treatment will cost, to obtain a current valuation, or to maintain records for insurance, there are several steps to follow:

  1. Write a description of the textile, its dimensions, its history as you know it.  Include your name and telephone number.

  2. For insurance or appraisal purposes, explain what the purpose is: do you need the (retail) replacement value? Do you need its sale price (for selling it)? Do you need its sale price relative to other antiques for estate distribution? There could be three different answers.
  3. For treatment inquiries, explain what you think needs to be done or what worries you. Write down what you would like to have it look like, or how you plan to use or display the textile.

  4. Take photographs of the textile, by digital or conventional camera. Make sure that the camera lens is parallel to the textile, even if your have to take the photos in sections. Always set a card with your NAME, DATE, and a SCALE (example: 1" and a line one inch long) on the border. Lay the textile on a clean sheet, if need be. Make several copies of the photographs.

  5. Keep one set of description, desires, and photography by your telephone, send of the other sets to potential conservators, your safe deposit box, dealers, etc.

  6. To locate a reputable dealer qualified to give an appraisal for insurance purposes, inquire at the appropriate department at the nearest museum with a textile collection of that type: tapestry, costume, flat textiles, ethnographic, etc.

  7. To locate a reputable textile conservator, do the same. Conservators specialize in one or another type of collection. If there is no museum nearby, you can search at the American Institute for Conservation website for 3 or 4 conservators. Do not limit yourself by geographic area (shipping is often straightforward).
  8. Ask the conservator for:

    • a treatment proposal [describes the probable treatment method];
    • a cost estimate;
    • packing and shipping instructions; and,
    • a probable date when work could begin.
  • Ask the dealer about fees. Normally, it should be a fixed fee. It should NOT be a percentage of the valuation. Curators and conservators are prohibited from making valuations.

Important Reminders:

  1. Do NOT take your heirloom out of your home in search of a dealer, conservator, or insurance agent. Use the photographs and description.

  2. Never send your valuable off without a signed contract; also obtain a receipt from the shipping agent.

  3. Consult your homeowner insurance agent for a "floater" or "rider" to insure your heirloom while it is out of your home and automobile. Ask your insurance agent to make sure the photographic record and description are suitable for insurance and appraisal.

  4. Remember that the freelance conservator works by "billable" hours and do not telephone her/him.  They all have answering machines; except for the most cursory questions, a discussion is pointless until they have your photographs. This might disturb his work on someone's textile. The conservator cannot help you without the information above; so include your telephone number and convenient hours in your correspondence.
  5. Occasionally conservators will charge for reviewing and providing treatment estimates which are time consuming or unusual.  If you are concerned about a proposal fee, inquire in your correspondence about this. If you accept the treatment, the cost of the estimate may be waived.

Updated: September 2006

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