Antique Trader

To Preserve

and Protect


By April Hann Lanford

April Hann Lanford, Principal Artifact Services, Artmill Group Art conservation and fine framing expert

April Hann Lanford, Principal of Artifact Services

To Preserve and Protect

By April Hann Lanford

April Hann Lanford is the Principal of Artifact, a Chicago firm specializing in the preservation and protection of works of art and historical artifacts. Her story is one of curiosity and passion.

The American singer Tony Bennett is quoted as saying, “If you follow your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Ever the enthusiast about antiques and history, I find myself active in a career that doesn’t feel like work but rather, feels like an adventure.

Every day brings new clients that have interesting artwork and antiques, each with their own story. Whether it is framing, a light cleaning, conservation or a referral for another specialist, there is always a puzzle to solve.

I am often asked how I got into this field. Many see my passion for the industry and assume I went to school with this career in mind. This career was built by following my passions.

April Hann Lanford, center with her twin sister and little brother, grew up in a collecting family

April and her two siblings grew up in a household of antiques.

My parents were entrepreneurs who owned a jewelry store. My mother ran the storefront, taking care of customers, and sourcing the merchandise. My father handled the bench work, handling jewelry repairs, resizing rings, setting stones and even piercing ears. My twin sister, little brother and I got an early taste at retail and customer service by running sidewalk sales, counting back change and collecting small 14k gold clippings around Dad’s workbench.

My parents were also avid collectors and the family would spend free time scouring antique stores for interesting items to add to our collections. At 6 years old, I started my first focused collection; it was Mr. Peanut advertising items and original tins. To this day, when I come across a rare piece, I feel a rush like when I put that first pair of 1950’s Mr. Peanut salt and pepper shakers on my dresser as a little girl.


As we grew older, my parents decided to move on from the jewelry business. I was in eighth grade when we went to our first auction. I remember vividly bidding and winning lots of vintage Buddy “L” trucks, TootsieToys and Sun Rubber cars. My mom and I were hooked, and Mom soon found herself selling antiques with me at her side. With every acquisition, we would research and learn about the items we were reselling. I devoured and memorizing as much information as possible, ready to discover the next implausible find.

My passion spilled into my school life as well. I was interested in painting and in high school took every art and photography course available. My school projects, artwork and reports revolved around antiques and collecting. When a retiring teacher pulled me aside to ask for my opinion on his World’s Fair items, I realized my knowledge could actually help others.

I had always known I would be attending college and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago was my dream school. My portfolio was reviewed and I was accepted, but that was the easy part. Even with scholarships, the tuition was daunting. I continued to work with my mom in her antiques business and got a second job at Michaels Arts & Crafts.

April Hann Lanford Student at SAIC, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  Painting Drawing, Art History and Scientific Illustration. Alumni BFA

Lanford at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, her dream school.

Jackson Pollock AIC chicago Grayed Rainbow, 1953 Oil on Linen, painting conservation Chicago

The first day of freshman year we were told, “look to your left, look to your right, these people will not be working in the field in ten years.” That lecture instilled some fear in me while also strengthened my determination to succeed. The school was conveniently adjacent to the Art Institute museum and I spent lunch breaks walking through the galleries, studying the art and artifacts on display.

Sophomore year came along and I realized I didn’t want to be a professional artist. When you are attending the preeminent art school of your dreams, that is a terrifying realization! I then decided to concentrate on art history and studio classes that focused on materials and historical painting/drawing techniques which opened a world of museum studies and the history of art creation. 

This led to a class field trip to the conservation lab at the Art Institute of Chicago, where I met a conservator who was mapping out the flaking splattered paint on an original Jackson Pollock masterpiece. At that moment, I realized there was this incredible field where you could be at the intersection of fine art, conservation, art history and knowledge of materials. By this time, I was a custom picture framer at Michaels and the knowledge I was gaining from my studies allowed me to talk to customers about the importance of archival materials, UV filtering glass and the history of design.

One day during a lunch break, I saw two museum staff in the Dutch gallery, looking at a miter corner on an antique frame. I couldn’t resist and approached them. As it turned out, one was the director of the conservation department. He took my contact information and said I would get a call. After two months without a word, I decide to reach out again and, due to my persistence, I was able to meet the frame conservator and landed a volunteer internship position.

While interning, finishing my degree, working at the Michaels and assisting my mom, I told myself that pursuing all of these paths would help in the long run. This eclectic mix worked well. I was constantly learning, meeting interesting people, taking care of nice things, and paying my bills.

April Hann Lanford Hurricane Katrina recovery, disaster response, art recovery, large loss specialist

April Hann Lanford doing recovery work in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

After graduating from college, I started studying chemistry and worked for the curator and the conservator for the largest private art collection in the Midwest, The Union League Club of Chicago. The insights I gained by assisting the painting conservator and assisting with the installation, display, and educational outreach of a large art collection increased my passion and excitement.

By 2004, my career path led me to the private sector, where I worked for privately owned conservation firms working for museums, the insurance industry and general public. I first started assisting clients for disaster response during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, running an emergency hotline to help clients who had collections in danger and facing catastrophic loss. Each disaster I respond to—Hurricane Katrina, Sandy, Matthew, Harvey, the wildfires in California and the debris flow in Montecito to name a few—reinforces my passion for helping others and preserving our past.

Even though I love preserving objects hands on, I find the most joy and fulfillment in working with colleagues and collectors to preserve and display their cherished pieces.

Some say that when you go on vacation, it isn’t about the destination, but the journey. There is a lot to be said for following your passions. Having a destination can help you find your way, but if you keep an open mind and not let the destination blind you to exploration, you can find yourself in a career perfectly tailored to you. 


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To Preserve and Protect, by April Hann Lanford


Antique Trader Articles


Artifact Services To Preserve and Protect by April Hann Lanford, Antique Trader image of antique picture frame

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For more than 60 years Antique Trader has been inspiring, informing and entertaining the collecting community with timely news coverage, lively collector profiles and in-depth articles on topics as varied and as broad as the big, bold, beautiful antiques world. Published 24 times a year and offering a weekly digital newsletter, Antique Trader provides expert insight, historical perspective, values and incomparable content, all designed to guarantee a robust and rewarding experience.

Click Here to Review Helpful Information about out published articles about the preservation, collection and display of fine art and antiques.



Collection Care Articles

light dusting of antique gilded frame. Gilded frame. antique frame conservation. Frame repair. Picture frame repair. Frame restoration. Antique custom frames Gold frame repair Antique restoration antique conservation services chicago

Our collection of educational articles provide an introduction to many topics about the preservation and conservation of fine art, antiques and fine furniture.

Topics are often written as a result of questions provided by our clients. 

Click Here to Review Helpful Information about Archival Storage, Guidance on Dusting and Cleaning of Specialty Glass and Acrylic, and General Collection Care.



FrAMING Articles

Artifact Services Chicago April Hann Lanford Custom Closed Corner FRames Museum Quality Custom Framing in Chicago. Closed Corner Frames

There is a lot that goes into the design and fabrication of an archival custom frame. Whether a minimal TIG welded aluminum frame, acrylic vitrine, or a custom carved wood, 22k gilded antique revival frame, each design can have a variety of approaches and materials.

Topics are written top help familiarize our clients with the materials and techiniques that are recommended for fine framing.

Click Here to Review Helpful Information about Finished Corner Frames, Gilding, Welded Frames, Specialty Glass and Acrylic, Archival and Museum Quality Framing.



Emergency Care Articles

Art restoration and custom framing services in Chicago. Fine art Claims Water damage conservation center chicago. Art conservation chicago Furniture restoration. Custom framing April Hann Lanford

Our emergency care articles are a helpful introduction on how to prevent damage through preventative measuresfor art and antique collections.  When a disaster strikes, prompt response and taking the right steps can mitigate further damage.  

Topics are based on twenty years of firsthand experience of handling a variety of fine art, framing and antique losses.

Click Here to Review Helpful Information about Prevention and Recovery Efforts for Fire Damage, Water Damage, and General Collection Care.




Book restoration A collection of antique books Book repair Leather binding services Custom scrapbooks Photo repair Antique book care Antique book preservation Custom Clamshell Boxes, archival storage. Custom archival framingCustom displays Antique book conservation

Click here to visit our glossary to learn about the terms that are frequently used in the fine art, conservation, fine framing industries.



Examinations, condition reports, and related cost estimates

can be completed at one of our studios, online or onsite

Call or email us today to work with us on your project 

At Our Studios

Clients are welcome to make an appointment to drop off items at one of our studio locations for an estimate.

Upon completion of the assessment, we will follow up with a written condition report and treatment proposal for your approval.

Custom framing appointments can also be made at any of locations.

To schedule an appointment please feel welcome to email, call, or submit an inquiry via through our form at the bottom of the page.


We also welcome inquiries through email.

If you have questions about a general treatment or need an approximate cost for a project, you can send images and information about your piece.  When possible please include the following information:

Title, Artist, Medium, and Size

Condition Observations and Concerns

Images of the front and back, with any details.

We will call you to follow up and gather any further pertinent information.


Clients are welcome to make an appointment to drop off items at one of our studio locations for an estimate.

Upon completion of the assessment, we will follow up with a written condition report and treatment proposal for your approval.

Custom framing appointments can also be made at any of locations.

To schedule an appointment please feel welcome to email, call, or submit an inquiry via through our form at the bottom of the page.


Get In touch
(312) 344-0331
Main Location: 840 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL  60642

By Appointment

Mon-Fri: 9:00am – 5pm
Sat: 10am-2pm
Sun: Closed

Send a message

Main Location

840 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

Complimentary parking is available in the parking lot in front of the building

Additional Locations

We can also serve you by appointment at our other locations in the Chicagoland area.

Lake Forest-Highland Park

Lincoln Park


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