Throughout his schooling, Andrew Lins was torn between a career in science or art. Medicine, he knew, would please his parents, but his true passion was art.
When a professor suggested that he combine his love of science and art to become an art conservator, he had a eureka moment.
“The most important thing is spending your time well, doing what makes you happy,” he would later tell a biographer for roadtripnation.com.
Mr. Lins, 74, of Philadelphia, died of cancer on Christmas Day after a 36-year career as conservator of the arts and sculpture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He joined the museum in 1979 and retired in 2015.
Starting in 1997, he chaired the museum’s conservation division, overseeing the care of the museum’s collection and the operations of six departments.
“His responsibilities for the care of the collections were among the most complex and extensive within this institution, and he was exemplary in his commitment,” Timothy Rub, the museum’s director and CEO, said in an email.
“He led the conservation teams in the treatment of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ gilded copper sculpture of Diana in the museum’s great stair hall and many other important works,” Rub said.
Mr. Lins was an expert in metal corrosion and sculpture conservation. His technical advice was sought in conserving some of the nation’s foremost historic treasures, including the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Memorial, the Liberty Bell, and the William Penn statue atop City Hall.
When the Liberty Bell was attacked by a man with a hammer in 2001, Mr. Lins was summoned to fix it. He also oversaw the groundbreaking laser restoration of the eight bronze sculptures on the City Hall clock tower.
“He has guided and advised on every preservation project the city has undertaken, and the legacy of his work will continue to benefit our city in perpetuity,” Mayor Michael A. Nutter wrote in a tribute when Mr. Lins retired.
He served as metals conservation consultant to the National Park Service and lectured at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Delaware, and the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Art conservation refers to the upkeep of culturally important paintings, sculptures, furniture, paper objects, and textiles. It entails understanding the original materials, what coatings were added over time, how those materials break down, and what should be done for maximum protection. Before any treatment is carried out, chemical research is done.
“Every treatment is a project in and of itself,” said Beth Price, who worked closely with Mr. Lins after joining the scientific research department in the museum’s conservation division in 1990.
He brought “sophistication and integrity and technical approaches to the field of conservation,” Price said.
Mr. Lins liked directing conservation of outdoor sculptures and was often there to supervise the team working on the statue of William Penn.
“We all loved working with Andrew," said senior conservator Sally Malenka. “He was always a creative and open thinker with another question to ask. He was also exceptionally kind and generous.”
Born in Manhattan to Marion Stewart and John Philip Lins II, Mr. Lins attended the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. He received a bachelor’s degree in the natural sciences from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in art history from New York University.
He earned a master’s degree in science from Sir John Cass College in London and a diploma in art conservation from the Institute of Fine Arts in New York.
Mr. Lins was a founding member of the Philadelphia Conservation Advisory Committee, and for 30 years, starting in the mid-1980s, volunteered his time and expertise to the city’s public art staff.
“He was tireless in the assistance, support, and knowledge that he shared with the city over the years,” said Margot Berg, the city’s public art director. “His legacy and impact on the cultural landscape of Philadelphia is truly immeasurable.”
He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Judith Flood Lins; a son, Christopher Andrew Lins; a daughter, Katherine Lins; two sisters; and two nieces.