Preventive Conservation workshop on the Kapiti Coast

By Emma Philpott, Sector Training Coordinator, National Services Te Paerangi

Textiles workshop at Southward Car MuseumI was lucky to spend the day at Southwards Car Museum in August, where I took part in a Preventive Conservation workshop with the Discover Kāpiti Heritage Group.

The workshop was attended by representatives from 5 of 7 museums in the region – Kāpiti Coast Museum, Otaki Museum, Aviation Museum Paraparaumu, Paekakariki Station Museum and Southwards Car Museum, who provided the workshop space and refreshments for the group.

Our facilitator was Te Papa Textiles Conservator Anne Peranteau, who shared insights into the science of conservation, discussed the difference between conservation and restoration and provided some examples of good practice for storing, handling and displaying objects.

Her presentation touched on the effects of light, damage from pests, mould and relative humidity, and ways that storage and display can impact the integrity of an object. Anne also showed examples of deterioration to look out for in collections, including markers of mould, sun damage and tears in fabrics which have been stored with folds. It brought home the importance of good storage for objects to ensure they’ll be in good shape for generations to come.

She also showed how there is little that can be done for some materials – some objects, such as plastics from the late 19th  to early 20th century have inherent instability and become brittle over time. In one of the slides Anne presented, a comb had literally disintegrated into a fine powder.

Anne discussed minimising the effect of light on fragile objects such as textiles by reducing light levels and rotating objects on display every six months to a year. She recommended noting in collection records when objects are put on or taken off display.

Anne also gave some examples of good object display techniques – showing us some neat solutions including using Velcro loops, stitching small flat textiles to calico attached to a backing board and custom hat mounts which could be used for storage and display.

Participants had an opportunity to ask questions about items in their collection, and Anne also answered questions about a range of objects which had been brought to the workshop, including a worn leather flying cap, an army jacket and a collection of brightly stamped linen bread bags.

In the afternoon the group learnt how to make custom boxes out of acid free cardboard for object storage. Some of the group were able to create storage boxes for the objects they had brought with them, and in pairs or small groups everyone worked through Anne’s instructions to complete a box with lid.

It was great to see these engaged museum workers discussing bulk ordering of conservation supplies to continue collection re-housing, as well as hear about the success of their well-attended local heritage day earlier in the year.

It’s fantastic to see more museum groups which are sharing training, resources and marketing as well as knowledge of their local area with each other.