Things to consider before you start

From Our Toolkit

The majority of items in heritage collections are made from materials which were never designed to last forever. Over time, even if left untouched, the materials will naturally breakdown.  This process is often aided by people handling the items or their exposure to risk factors such as temperature, light, humidity, pests or pollution.

As heritage collection holders what we are trying to do is to minimise, and wherever possible, stop the deterioration of the items in our care. Good collections care can support this aim.

At the heart of the care and storage and care of collections should be the overiding principles of minimal handling of collection items and limited exposure to risks or other external factors which could cause them to deteriorate.

Museums Galleries Scotland provides a good Introduction to collections care. Many of the aspects covered in this resource will be covered in more depth in this toolkit topic starting with object handling:

Object handling guidelines

Objects, or indeed any collection item, should only be handled when necessary. It is always advisable to wear gloves when handling items as the How to select gloves – A guide for collections staff explains:

The surface of human skin is covered with residue including oils, dirt, salts, and moisture. These can damage museum objects by etching, abrasion, and staining. Likewise, the surface of objects can be composed of, or treated with, materials of varying toxicity, such as pesticides. These can render the handling of these objects dangerous to human health and safety. Gloves provide a protective barrier between the object and the person handling objects and prevent the transfer of substances between the hand and the object.

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