Conservation at MHS
Conservation is carried out in two ways; remedial and preventative conservation, both of which are undertaken at MHS. The conservation of the MHS collection began as a permanent requirement in 2002 in response to the need for care of collections to a high standard. The museum houses an important range of collections and the range of materials with which the objects are constructed is highly challenging for example some objects have a range of complex materials and are/or were working objects.
The vast majority of object materials will degrade over time. The degradation process can be present from the production of a particular type of material or to aging over time from light damage, extremes of temperature and relative humidity, insect pests, and pollutants. Both forms of conservation work towards stabilising this process and allow the objects to be displayed and handled, unlike those that are in a more fragile state. This requires the skill and expertise of the conservator.
Remedial (sometimes referred to as interventive) conservation is the process of cleaning and making sensitive repair to objects to reveal original surfaces, restore meaning and strengthen fragile components. This process makes objects much more stable and therefore more able to withstand being on display and handled. This process is usually carried out prior to display but items already on display may show signs of distress and degradation and may be removed from public view whilst conservation is carried out.
There is a whole process of careful and thorough examination and assessment prior to any treatment being carried out with all findings fully recorded.
Preventive conservation is the control of the physical environment in which the objects are displayed and stored in so as to prevent degradation of the materials from occurring in the first place. Objects require a stable relative humidity and temperature within certain specifications, dependent upon their different types of material. Visible light, ultra violet light, other pollutants and insect pests need to be controlled to maintain the collection. Correct handling, packing and mounting are other aspects of preventive conservation which aid the preservation of the collection.
At MHS both forms of conservation are carried out and sample projects of remedial conservation can be viewed. Most projects which appear on these pages represent a summary report on the conservation process, but there are more in-depth reports available for some projects.
Please note that all conservation procedures are carried out by a qualified and experienced conservator. It is not recommended that these are repeated without conservation experience. Each individual object may react differently to the same process even if they appear to be of the same materials. If you have any particular concerns about an object then it is best to seek the advice of a properly-trained conservator.
Qualified conservators in any specialism and UK geographic location can be found at http://www.conservationregister.com
Conservator professional guidelines can be found at the Institute of Conservation (ICON) website at http://www.icon.org.uk/index.php?option=com_conten&task=view&id=121