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  • Mark Erdmann

Why do you need an art survey?

I recently completed a survey for the Town of Cary, North Carolina of many of their outdoor sculptures. The collection ranges from bronze busts, painted and raw steel, welded aluminum, to carved brick, glass and terra cotta mosaics, stainless steel kinetic pieces, and etched granite. Surveys can also be done of historic artifacts or even an industrial history collection, all of which I have done over the years.


I spent time in Cary over the course of three weeks traveling to each site, taking notes and photographing each piece, I then prepared individual reports and a summary of my findings.


In discussion with the curator of collections, we decided to use her own assessment form since it was already in use for the Town art collection; it had all the information fields included that she found useful. Alternately, if you don't have a form already in use, I can create one based on the information that I typically collect, or that you request!


What's the purpose of an art survey? It's a chance to have a professional art conservator lay eyes on each artwork from the perspective of preservation, stability, public safety, and public enjoyment of the works.


What's included in an art survey? It's up to you, but I usually include a brief description of the artwork or sculpture and its surroundings, a description of any damage or degradation, and recommendations for future treatment. I take photos including details of damage. And most important for your budget planning, I create a prioritized list of high, medium and low priority for conservation/restoration. An added step is to provide ballpark estimates for any treatment to be completed. While this step is more time consuming, it can help with budgeting for conservation.


If your collection hasn't been assessed by a conservator in the last ten years, consider including a public art survey in your next budget. It's the foundation for conservation planning!

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