Collections Stewardship: Conservation and a Renewed Look at Heritage

Conservator Michael Ruzga working on a piece from the collection

Written by Jason E. Shaiman, Curator of Exhibitions

Having a wonderful art collection of more than 17,500 pieces covering a span of nearly 6,000 years of creativity is a privilege. Possessing this collection means that museum staff have a great responsibility for stewardship so that works of art and material culture objects can be studied, displayed, and most importantly enjoyed for generations to come. 

For the Fall 2023 exhibition Heritage: Shaping Past, Present, Future, curators selected the early 18th century painting of the Temple of Faustina (1956.P.1.10) by Ferdinando Galli da Bibiena (Italian, 1657-1743). However, the condition of the painting was not suitable for display. Even when this painting was donated to Miami University in 1956 by Mr. and Mrs. William H. Hiestand it was in need of conservation to remove discolored varnish and overpainting applied to correct prior damage.

Before conservation above left, After conservation above right. Temple of Faustina (1956.P.1.10) by Ferdinando Galli da Bibiena (Italian, 1657-1743).

The Art Museum contacted Michael Ruzga, an independent paintings conservator in Cincinnati, to  provide a treatment proposal for the canvas. The resulting work that took place in early 2023 restored the painting to a condition worthy of display and admiration. The work also revealed details that were not previously visible. Ruzga’s successful conservation work offers a renewed opportunity for displaying Bibiena’s painting and demonstrates the Art Museum’s commitment to good collections stewardship. Those who attended a special Members’ presentation learned about Ruzga’s process of conservation research and treatment of the painting.

The painting received additional attention when Andrew Casper, Professor of Art and Architecture History at Miami University, presented on Bibiena’s painting for the Heritage Symposium held in early October 2023. Casper spoke about how da Bibiena idealized the ruins of the Temple of Faustina within the ancient Roman Forum in a contemporary (early 18th century) context. Of particular interest is da Bibiena’s exclusion of the 17th century Church of San Lorenzo in Miranda that was constructed within the ruined remains of the Temple of Faustina.

Ruzga’s work was supported through the Art Museum’s John Adam David Schaal Art Conservancy Fund, which was established to help conserve the museum’s permanent collections. Other works in the collection require conservation, thus our work isn’t finished. If you would like to support the conservation of the Art Museum’s collection, please consider a donation to the John Adam Schaal Conservancy Fund by visiting our Giving Page or contact us via email by writing to

Jason E. Shaiman is the Curator of Exhibitions at the Richard and Carole Cocks Art Museum. Learn more about Jason in his staff biography on our website.

Please visit the Art Museum Giving Page and consider a donation to support RCCAM’s exhibitions, programs, and collections.