Handling: The Accidental Danger
Accidents, such as dropping objects, are never planned, but certain
can prevent them. A key factor in the preservation of objects is how they
handled and used. Surfaces of objects may be stained or smudged by dirty
or scratched by jewellery or watches.
- Always make sure your hands are clean before you touch your
- Wear cotton gloves to avoid finger marks on metal objects and
Gloves can be purchased at photo supply stores.
- Before moving an object, make sure passages are clear, doors
are open, and there is a safe place to set it down.
- Handle one object at a time,
using both hands. Don't displace heavy objects alone; you may hurt yourself
and the object!
- Lift the object by its base or main body of the object. Protruding
handles or other elements should not be used for lifting as they may break
off. Never drag an object.
- To handle or move a fragile object safely,
place it on a rigid surface that is slightly
larger than the object so that it is supported
evenly. For example, works of art on paper
can be supported by acid free mat boards or
small objects can be moved on trays.
- Make sure shelves or the hanging system, such as picture hooks, are
and sturdy enough to bear the weight of the object.
Sometimes, good intentions can do more harm than good. Many types of
or adhesives used to repair tears will yellow with time and may stain
materials. Never wrap objects in newspapers to protect them during a move:
ink on the paper will transfer and stain surfaces. Use plain newsprint for
packing or acid-free paper for long-term storage. Acid-free paper can be
at art supply stores or on-line from suppliers of archival storage
of plated silver surface that has been polished so often the silver
has worn off exposing the copper surface beneath it.
Metal objects can also be damaged by too much attention: Every
time you polish
a surface, a layer of metal is removed. The more you polish, or the harsher
the polishing product, the more metal is removed.
Decorated ceramic surfaces may be scratched or rubbed off when
- Wash ceramics gently in plastic basins using a soft sponge or
- Do not scrub decorated surfaces.
- >Do not wash ceramics or glass if the surface
is cracked or flaking.
- Don't wash valuable ceramics or glassware in a dishwasher.
Keep a record of the products and techniques you use to clean and
objects in your collection. The success of future conservation treatments
depend on knowing what products have been used.
Professional conservators have the expertise and practical experience
advise you on how best to care for your collection. Your local museum can
you the names of accredited/professional conservators, or visit the
Association of Professional Conservators web site at http://capc-acrp.ca/what_is_capc.asp for
For more information on caring for specific types of collections check
out the links below.
Web Sites and Further Reading
A lot of information is available on the Internet about caring for and
objects. Some advice may be outdated or inaccurate. Reliable sources are
below to help you start a search for more information. Names of the
and titles of the web pages are also included as sometimes the addresses of
specific pages change as institutions update their web sites.
Institute: Preserving My Heritage/Préserver
mon patrimoine is a bilingual site aimed at "helping you care
your treasures, heirlooms, and works of art. It also provides information
the fascinating world of heritage conservation and the work carried out by
Canadian Conservation Institute." http://www.preservation.gc.ca
Centre de conservation du Québec: Quelques conseils pour vos
Archives of Ontario: Caring for your Own Archival Collection.
The American Institution for Conservation provides Information for the
on the conservation and care of collections. http://aic.stanford.edu/public/index.html
Northern States Conservation Center: Collection Care Series
a broad range of information for mixed collections.
Library of Congress: Preservation Site for archival material.
The Henry Ford Museum: Caring for Your Artifacts provides
fact sheets developed by the museum's conservation staff for the public.
cover many collecting interests, from historic textiles to iron objects.
Minnesota Historical Society: This address takes
you to a menu of pages covering a variety of topics related to caring for
Caring for collections is a vast subject. Depending on what type of
you collect, there is probably a book or article on how to care for it.
of the large number of titles available, a rule of thumb is to check the
of the authors or the publishers. Below are a few suggestions for further
Books for the General Public
Haskins, Scott M. How to Save Your Stuff from a Disaster. Santa
Barbara: Preservation Help Publications, 1996.
Landrey, Gregory J. (et al.) The Winterthur Guide to Caring for Your
Collections. Delaware: The Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum,
Long, Jane S. and Richard W. Long. Caring For Your Family
New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 2000.
Mardaga, Pierre. Préserver les objets de son patrimoine.
Champs-sur-Marnes: SFIIC, 2001.
Museums & Galleries Commission. Ours for Keeps. London:
Museums & Galleries
Commission Publications, 1998.
Shultz, A. W., ed. Caring for Your Collections. New York: Harry
N. Abrams Inc., 1992.
Simpson M. T. and M. Huntley, eds. Sotheby's Caring for
London: Octopus Publishing Group, 1992.
Simpson M. T. and M. Huntley, eds. La restauration des objets
(Southeby's). Paris: Armand Colin, 1992.
Snyder, Jill. Caring for Your Art: A Guide for Artists, Collectors,
Galleries and Art Institutions. New York: Allworth Press, 2001.
Examples of Specific Topics
Fisher, Charles E. and Hugh C. Miller, eds. Caring for your Historic
House. Heritage Preservation, 1998.
Quye, Anita and Colin Williamson, eds. Plastics: Collecting &
Edinburgh: NMS Publishing Ltd, 1999.
Publications for the Museum Professional and Useful
The Canadian Conservation Institute, Heritage Canada, is a Canadian
agency based in Ottawa that is dedicated to the conservation of cultural
They have published many books and notes in both English and French. A
listing of their publications is at http://www.cci-icc.gc.ca.
Buck, Rebecca A. and Jean Allman Gilmore, eds. The New Museum
Methods. Washington: American Association of Museums, 1998.
Guillemard, D. and C. Laroque. Manuel de conservation preventive:
et contrôle des collections. Paris: OCIM, 1994.
Markarian, Phillippe et Cécile Rat. La conservation
des collections. Paris: Musée des techniques et cultures
Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Care and Handling of Art Objects:
in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of
Smith, D. Alberta Museums Association Standard Practices Handbook.
Alberta Museums Association, 1990, revised edition 2001.
Examples of Specialized Publications
Hendricks, Klaus et al. Fundamentals of Photographic Conservation: A
Study Guide. Toronto: Lugus Publications, National Archives of Canada,
and the Canadian Communications Group (Publishing), 1991.
Lavédrine, Bertrand. A Guide to the Preventive Conservation
Photograph Collections. Marina Del Rey: The J. Paul Getty Trust,
Dorge, Valerie and F. Carey Howlett, eds. Painted Wood: History and
Conservation Proceedings of a Symposium at Williamsburg, Virginia, November 1994.
Marina Del Rey: The J. Paul Getty Trust, 1998.
(For more information on Getty Conservation Institute Publications, go
Museums & Galleries Commission. Standards in the Museum Care of
Working Objects. London: Museums & Galleries Commission, 1994.
C.L. and A.R. de Torres, eds. Storage of Natural History Collections:
Ideas and Practical Solutions. Pittsburgh: SPNHC, 1992.