Barbara A. Ramsay, the new chief conservator at The Ringling brings almost four decades of experience in art conservation with a focus on managing, directing, and carrying out complex conservation treatments on easel paintings, murals, historic painted finishes, and modern art objects.
“We could not be more excited to bring in Barbara to oversee conservation here at The Ringling,” Steven High, executive director at The Ringling said. “Her experience in and passion for conservation make her an ideal fit.”
Ramsay said that the extraordinary museum collection, the state-of-the-art conservation laboratory, and the institutional support for an active conservation program at The Ringling intrigued her and influenced her decision to accept the position. She hopes to build a team of conservators to oversee the museum’s extensive permanent collection, which includes not only the museum of art but also Ca’d’Zan, the Historic Asolo Theater, and a unique collection of circus objects.
Ramsay’s work will include the examination and treatment of paintings, as well as care of the wide range of objects in the collection. Preventative conservation as well as restoration treatment will be important aspects of her responsibilities as chief conservator.
“As a conservator, I am concerned not only with preservation of the physical work, but also its aesthetic presentation.” Ramsay said. “Structurally, a work of art has to be sound. Aesthetically, the appearance has to be acceptable for display. You must show respect for the integrity of the work of art and the intention of the artist.”
Since arriving at The Ringling, Ramsay has been acquainting herself with the museum’s collections. She prepared Rest on the Flight into Egypt, a painting by Paulo Veronese from The Ringling’s permanent collection for loan to The National Gallery, London. Ramsay will also be treating paintings that have recently been acquired—such as an eighteenth-century portrait attributed to Allan Ramsay—for display in the galleries. She is currently examining early Italian paintings with curator, Virginia Brilliant, as part of the Italian paintings catalogue project.
Prior to accepting her position at The Ringling, Ramsay worked in the Washington, DC area for almost fifteen years as Director of Conservation Services at ARTEX Fine Art Services—the largest private fine art services firm in the United States. While at ARTEX, Ramsay directed work at the U.S. Capitol, including the conservation of murals by Constantino Brumidi in the Senate Appropriations Committee Room and historic painted finishes research in the Senate Reception Room. For many years, she also coordinated the conservation of paintings for the estate of American abstract expressionist painter Clyfford Still. Another project carried out by the team of ARTEX conservators was the restoration of four monumental De Vos circus banners, which are a part of Howard Tibbals’ collection at The Ringling.
Ramsay also worked for eighteen years as a conservator of paintings at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, with five of those years as Senior Conservator of Fine Art. She holds a Master of Art Conservation degree in Fine Arts (Paintings & Works of Art on Paper) from Queen’s University of Kingston, Canada, and a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Toronto. Ramsay is a professional associate of the American Institute for Conservation, a board-accredited member of the Canadian Association of Professional Conservators, and a Fellow of the International Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works.