I found this weeks topic really interesting and incredibly informative. There are so many more elements involved with preventative conservation  that I originally understood. For the discussion this week I chose to compare a natural element like a caribou hide, and a man-made object like a painting. In my research and experience,  there are a number of factors that affect both pieces. There are obvious risks that come from things like fires or flooding, that can be mitigated with proper preparedness like minimizing combustible materials in storage spaces, and lifting artifacts from the floor and low areas.  On top of these types of risks, are more their nuanced cousins, relative humidity and temperature. Both objects are susceptible to warpage, shrinkage, and cracking if not kept in the proper controlled environment. to avoid these issues, proper ventilation, temperature monitors and moisture meters all help to protect objects. Temperature and moisture are relative and are adjusted depending on the particulars of specific collections. Another similar problem that might arise with these two objects, is damage due to improper handling. Both are susceptible to damage through skin oils, which is why, like most objects, they need to be handled while wearing gloves. Oils on the had can deteriorate details in painting and damage the fur of an animal by weighing down individual hairs and altering the appearance.

These types of similarities in conservation methods seem to be fairly constant across most artifacts. The statement I most connected with this week was how these types of mitigation efforts are so long lasting, that individually we might not see the effects of this work within our lifetime. I think that way of thinking is so wonderful and shows how important this work is.

While these artifacts have a lot of similar needs, there are also conservation issues that are very different. One of the biggest things that damage artwork if light. Exposure to light can damage artworks and change their appearance overtime.  Besides removing works from direct sunlight and storing and displaying them in lower light situations, there is also a huge push to restore works that have already been damaged. Art restoration is a growing field that removes dust, dirt, and smoke, while also restoring original paint color and detail. While light can also damage an animal fur, the extent is far less.

One type of damage I hadn’t really considered or come in contact with before this week is the destruction that pests can cause. Pests can be a huge problem with organic materials like plants and animals. I suppose certain types of insects can affect painting canvases, frames and other art materials but I’ve never heard of a work of art entering a collection possibly contaminated, an issue faced by in the field collecting. I had never considered thing like including insect traps within storage to protect plants and animal hides. It’s great that UAF has a large freezer to kill anything that might be trying to make its way into the collection, but I feel like this method is not one size fits all due to objects that are susceptible to temperature damage.The biggest  thing seams to be just to keep up with proper house keeping to stop pests before they happen.


Did learning all this make anyone else question how objects in their home might be better protected, like for example moving something out of direct sunlight or to a cooler area or anything like that?


This 400-year-old painting being restored is the most satisfying thing  you'll see today | BreakingNews.ie | Conservation art, Old paintings, Art  history major

3 Thoughts to “Week Eight Discussion”

  1. Angela Linn

    I’m glad this unit has given you some new ideas to think about! I agree – one of the hardest things about focusing your work on preventive conservation is that there’s little “payoff” in the short term (other than maybe being proud of a particularly well-made archival box and storage mount!) – we’re in it for the long-term. It’s one of the things that makes it really hard to raise money to do this sort of work. It’s not “sexy” like the dramatic transformation that direct conservation can make (like your photo shows through the removal of surface grime and old yellowed varnishes on paintings) – but it’s just as important for the preservation of collections.

    Good question about freezing and its suitability for different items. Ellen Carrlee (the conservator at the Alaska State Museum) has looked into this and helped the National Museum of the American Indian undertake research on just this question: https://museumpests.net/solutions-case-studies/solutions-low-temperature-treatments-at-the-national-museum-of-the-american-indian/. They found that there were very few items that could not go through the freezing process for preventing or killing pests. It’s really a great technique and we’re so lucky to have ultracold freezers that go down to -80F to shock those tough Alaska insects!

  2. Barbara Long

    Good Afternoon,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on preservation. In response to your question, I take care of my artwork, as well as other items. Recent issues that have concerned me have been the movers, who seem to just stack anything on top of a box labeled fragile/keep upright, as well as theft. Pests are a huge concern too. They find their way into almost every crevice. Preservation of flora specimens are concerning for me as well. They are fragile and tend to deteriorate much faster in my opinion. Thank you for your post.

  3. Michael Hubert

    yes, after this weeks readings and seeing everyone’s post I really stared to look at how to preserve items that I wanted to in my house hold. I started with what I would think would be the most difficult like pictures and videos, then start to look at things like a 100+ year old slice of a olive tree from Italy that we turned into a serving platter. it dries and we need to keep it oiled and moist so it doesn’t dry out and warp and crack. thank you for your post.

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