Michelle Smith, Conservator of Works on Paper and Books

Michelle C. Smith, Assistant Conservator of Paper and Books, received her masters degree from the Garman Art Conservation Department at Buffalo State College, where she was an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Library and Archives Conservation. She moved to the Bay Area in 2017 to complete an advanced graduate internship at Stanford Libraries Conservation Services, where she prepared the Syriac Galen Palimpsest for imaging at the SLAC National Laboratory Synchrotron.

Michelle has expertise in the treatment of both works on paper and books, from ancient manuscripts to modern artworks. She has advanced training in the conservation of papyrus. She has completed internships at Emory University Libraries in Atlanta, the University of Washington Libraries in Seattle, and the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. In 2015, she investigated the conservation of artists’ books as a Catherine Baker Fellow in Conservation at the University of Michigan Library in Ann Arbor. Michelle has a background in printmaking and bookbinding and continues her practice today. She is a member of the American Institute for Conservation, the Bay Area Art Conservation Guild, the Guild of Bookworkers, and the Hand Bookbinders of California.


Private Client’s Family Bible - Prussia 1850

“I was very grateful for the opportunity to work on a private client’s family bible in 2018. The bible was printed in Prussia in 1850 and bound in parchment over wooden boards. It had been passed down in the family and showed evidence of heavy use. The entire spine was missing and the book had been previously repaired, likely by an owner, using various tapes, adhesives, and scraps of patterned fabric; in book conservation we sometimes call these types of interventions “folk repairs.” Unfortunately these inexpert repairs were restricting the opening of the book and causing damage to the leaves. In order to preserve the bible and make the text accessible, I removed the previous repairs, washed several sections of leaves to reduce adhesive residue, repaired the leaves, resewed the removed sections, and incorporated them back into the textblock. After securely attaching the textblock to the boards, the lost parchment spine was replaced with paper toned to match the rest of the aged binding. Now the full text can be consulted safely, and this family treasure can be enjoyed and appreciated for many more generations.” - Michelle Smith, Paper & Book Conservator


Michelle cleans a work on paper by Viola Frey

Michelle cleans a work on paper by Viola Frey

Preservation Arts has expertise in the following areas:

Works on Paper:

  • Drawings

  • Paintings on paper (watercolor, gouache, oil, acrylic, etc.)

  • Collage, assemblage, and mixed media

  • Lithographs, chromolithographs, and posters

  • Serigraphs (also known as screenprints or silkscreen prints)

  • Relief prints, including Japanese woodblock prints

  • Intaglio prints (etchings, engravings, photogravures, etc.)

  • Old master drawings

  • Crayon enlargements

  • Asian paper screens

  • Asian paintings on silk

Books and manuscripts:

  • Printed books

  • Manuscript books

  • Books bound in parchment, leather, cloth, and paper

  • Pamphlets

  • Palm leaf manuscripts

  • Papyrus

  • Parchment

  • Artists’ books

  • Boxes and slipcases

  • Scrapbooks, ephemera, collectibles


For assessments or information:

Please contact us to set up an appointment.

Call 510-808-7894 or email info@preservation-arts.com

Artworks by the following artists have been treated by Preservation Arts:

Original works by

  • Bruce Conner

  • László Moholy-Nagy

  • Viola Frey

  • Minjung Kim

  • Christian Marclay

  • Mary Warner

Prints and editions by

  • Robert Rauschenberg

  • Robert Motherwell

  • Wayne Thiebaud

  • Alex Katz

  • Rufino Tamayo

Michelle and Stephanie have done work on a Moholy-Nagy collage and a Matta painting, respectively. I love working with this team: they are lovely people with an amazing trove of knowledge and experience. The work has been impeccable. Going there is always a treat and they are happy to talk about the pieces there - an ancient set of armor, a marble bust with chips, a gold rush era painting. They can do it all and work with institutions all over.
— Melanie L. - Orinda - 2/5/19
During a recent move, we had a large framed lithograph damaged by the moving company. The print is of highly sentimental value, and we were heartbroken when it came out of the moving truck shattered, scratched, creased, and punctured by shards of glass. Thankfully, I had enough willpower to keep it and try to have it restored.

I found Preservation Arts [formerly SF Art Conservation] after an online search and sent them photos of the piece that I had taken on my phone. I heard back promptly and was told they would work on the print. I cannot thank Michelle Smith who leads their paper department enough for the outstanding job she did in restoring our beloved print.

When I first arrived at the studio, she gave me an overview of the type of pieces she was working on (which included a 17-century German bible and an antique Japanese canvas work with large tears), then walked me around and introduced me to all her colleagues. I was impressed not only by the quality of pieces I saw at the studio, but also by how nice and attentive everyone was to me.

Michelle restored the print in about 3 weeks time and kept it for me until I returned from a trip abroad. I received a pdf report with before and after photos and a detailed description of the treatment. Michelle had removed glass dust, cleaned, straightened the creases, carefully filled in the scratches and used watercolor to restore the missing surface. Her work was like magic, and even some of the worst damage (creased puncture with missing original surface) can no longer be seen. Michelle also recommended a framer who also did a great job framing the piece.

I highly recommend SF Art Conservation and especially Michelle Smith to anyone looking to have a paper-based artwork restored.
— Valery R., San Francisco, CA 2/5/19

Select Portfolio of Paper & Books Conservation Treatments