The word “conservation” is a term used to describe the method of preserving (keeping safe) and conserving (caring for) the objects within a museum or personal collection. Preservation (or preventative conservation) is the first step in protecting your objects. Poor preservation methods can cause accelerated deterioration, irreparable damage, and can become expensive when a professional conservator is needed to stabilize and repair neglected objects.
Establishing good preservation techniques does not have to be an overwhelming or all consuming task. By following a few simple guidelines, you can help ensure the protection of your keepsakes.
1. Store archival documents (such as paper and photographs) in lidded acid-free boxes, which can be purchased online or at most paper supply stores. Make sure all paper clips, tape, sticky notes, and placeholders are removed before storing. Do not overstuff boxes. This can place unnecessary stress on the objects and can make it difficult to extract items. If needed, use an acid free pencil to mark photographs and documents on backside. Larger objects should be covered in plastic to safeguard against water damage.
2. Improve overall environmental conditions by moving boxes from a hot attic or damp basement to an area less prone to extreme temperature and humidity fluctuations. Many materials, especially paper and textiles, are hygroscopic, which means they are physically responsive to moisture and temperature changes. Refrain from placing boxes near exterior doors, heat vents, or electrical units. Instead, safely store boxes in an office closet, under your bed, or on a high shelf in a finished basement. If the environment feels comfortable year-round to you, it is most likely a safe place for your keepsakes.
Remember, improper environmental conditions promote harmful chemical reactions, encourage mold growth and insect activity, and can become costly. Visible signs of damage include:
• Cockling (distortions and rippling of paper)
• Warping (book covers, for example)
• Foxing (reddish-brown spots on paper and textiles)
3. Avoid displaying your keepsakes in well-lit areas, such as under a bright lamp, below track or florescent lighting, or beside a sunny window. Light will cause discoloration and fading, which can do irreparable damage to an object in as little as 24 hours.
4. Contact a professional storage facility if objects begin to overwhelm the space allotted to them. Over-stacked shelves, blocked walkways, and overstuffed boxes are all indicators that a professional service may be needed. Hiring a professional, however, can be expensive (around $4 per square foot), so it is important to select the right company. Ask to see the space before signing any contract. Make sure the facility is climate-controlled, has 24-hour security, an emergency plan, and a professionally trained and courteous staff.
By following these simple guidelines, you can help ensure that future generations can enjoy, study, and share the rich history and culture of the LGBT community.
For more information on modern conservation methods, please contact the Velvet Foundation at 202.630.LGBT (5428), firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website at www.nationallgbtmuseum.org.