When you introduce a new item to your collection, your first goal should be record management. Records should include photographic documentation combined with written details that will provide you and future caretakers with the state of the object’s original condition, provenance, value, and location. Your second goal (and responsibility) is to ensure the object’s long-term safety and preservation while in your care.
Managing a healthy environment for a collection can be difficult, since it requires a certain level of expertise, time, and modest expense. However, a controlled environment can be accomplished, even by “amateur” curators with limited resources.
Your collectibles are constantly under threat from a variety of sources on a daily basis, from theft, pests, and pollution; to humidity, temperature, water, light, and unforeseen natural disasters. Regardless of what you collect, you must take actions to delay; or to outright prevent, the deterioration of the objects in your care. Understanding how to identify, address, and reduce potential hazards is a learned process; and a tricky one at that!
To help shorten your learning curve, check out the Museum Handbook, published by the National Park Service. This three-part handbook focuses on the standards and procedures of preventive care and techniques; to guidance on documentation and record keeping. While intended for museum curators, there are some great gems buried inside that we can all learn from and apply to the care of our own collections.
To access the guides, click on the images or links below…
For preservation tips and techniques, check out Part 1.
For documentation and record keeping techniques, check out Part 2.