Thursday, September 17, 2015

Museum Tips for Preservation

Framed objects being conserved 
This summer we have spent a lot of time here at the Historical Society cleaning, preserving, documenting and working to maintain the objects in our collection. This is an ongoing project  for the museum and it can vary quite a bit.  The Historical Society has quite an eclectic collection of objects which all need to be cared for  in different ways. Whether it's gently dusting off a passenger pigeon specimen or preserving some travel letters from 1872, different techniques need to be used for specific items.  Many of these techniques apply outside of a formal museum setting as well and we wanted to share some basic tips about caring for family heirlooms or antiques. Using some museum-style techniques for preservation may help you and your family to enjoy important pieces in your personal collection for generations to come. 

One of the easiest tips we suggest for any heirloom or antique owner is to write things down. Whether you plan to one day offer them for donation to a museum or hand them down in your family, take the time to document your objects now.  The stories that surround objects are usually the most interesting part about them. By writing down even small snippets of oral history, object origins or personal memories about a particular piece you can guarantee that people will remember and appreciate the stories and people that surround an individual object. Write in pencil on the back of images to identify them or the people present in images. Tuck notes into drawers of larger pieces or in the same box that individual objects might be stored in. Computers can be very useful for this. Scanning images or keeping digital records can be a great way to preserve object histories. 

Storage is an important part of object conservation. Store precious things in the same kinds of environments in stable, dry and relatively cool environments. Drastic temperature changes can damage or age some objects. The material your items are stored in can also have a big impact. Be sure to take advantage of the archival safe albums and materials widely available at craft stores to ensure that your object storage won't damage the objects it is meant to protect. For storing textiles, clean cotton sheets make great wrappers which you can roll up to store them in, keeping them away from wood or old paper. These outside irritants may damage and discolor them.

We’re happy to offer further advice about good storage and documentation, and hope these tips may be helpful to you. If you have further questions feel free to drop us a line by email or schedule a time to come by the museum. Our archives might even be able to add to your appreciation of your family heirlooms.