Caroline K. Keck, a pioneer of art conservation, died on Dec. 17 at her home in Cooperstown, N.Y. She was 99.
Her death was announced by her son Lawrence Waugh Keck.
Mrs. Keck and her husband, Sheldon Keck, were two
of the most influential conservators of the modern era. They were
instrumental in converting the centuries-old craft of art restoration
into a profession based on scientific research, the use of modern
technology and adherence to shared methodological standards. While art
restorers once were secretive and too often used techniques that harmed
artworks, the Kecks insisted that conservators should thoroughly
document their procedures and that everything done to a piece should be
easily and fully reversible.
In 1960 the Kecks founded the Conservation Center of the Institute of
Fine Arts at New York University, with Mr. Keck directing the center
until 1965. In 1970, under the auspices of the State University of New
York College at Oneonta, the Kecks established the Cooperstown
Conservation training program, in which Mrs. Keck worked and taught
until she retired in 1981. Graduates of both programs now work for major
museums throughout the United States. In 1987 the Cooperstown program
moved and became part of SUNY Buffalo.
Mrs. Keck wrote several important books in the field, including "How to
Take Care of Your Pictures," first published by the Brooklyn Museum and
the Museum of Modern Art in 1954. It remains a classic, along with
"Handbook on the Care of Paintings" (1965), "A Primer on Museum
Security" (1966) and "Safeguarding Your Collection in Travel" (1970).
Caroline Martin Kohn was born in New York City. She graduated from
Vassar College and received a master's degree in art history from
Harvard University in 1932. She met Mr. Keck when they both took a
course on art materials at the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard. They were
married in 1933. Mr. Keck died in 1993.
In 1934 Mr. Keck established an art conservation laboratory at the
Brooklyn Museum, and he ran it until 1961. Mrs. Keck worked closely with
him, and she oversaw the program when he was away for military service
during World War II and when he was on research trips.
After World War II the Kecks helped establish conservation departments
in numerous museums. They were consultants for the Museum of Modern Art,
the Guggenheim Museum, the Phillips Collection in Washington and other
institutions. Mrs. Keck, who was well known for her strong opinions,
irreverent manner and salty language, also served as personal
conservator for the painters Georgia O'Keeffe and Edwin Dickinson and
for the art collection of Nelson A. Rockefeller.
In addition to her son Lawrence, of Annandale, Va., Mrs. Keck is
survived by another son, Albert, of Cooperstown, and two grandchildren.
By Ken Johnson
For The New York Times