MUSEUM HOUSEKEEPING Preventative Conservation: Artefacts & Structures
Housekeeping is essential to your preventive conservation program. Preventive conservation, the primary goal of housekeeping, aims to prevent damage to museum collections.
From the moment an object is created, it begins to deteriorate as a result of its interaction with the environment.
Conservation treatment can be minimized by implementing a museum housekeeping program in all spaces that house museum objects, such as: exhibit spaces historic furnished rooms storage spaces curatorial offices other work spaces
Not all spaces are created equal Exhibit spaces with closed cases may require only annual dusting of objects. Historic furnished rooms, with objects on display in the open air, will require daily or biweekly cleaning.
Unnecessary and frequent cleaning can cause damage to objects To decide on how often to clean, think critically. Take into account how dirt, pests and other contaminants get into a space. Think about how many people go through an area. Walk through and carefully look at the space to see where dirt collects and how quickly
Cleaning Schedule Organize tasks on the schedule as follows: Daily Weekly Monthly Quarterly Semi-annually Cyclically (less or more often than annually) As Needed
Cleaning Schedule Use a chart to format your schedule Provide a space for initials to document each time a task on the schedule is carried out Include with the schedule a list of supplies required for each task Note all artefacts that require special attention File completed charts for future reference
Cleaning Schedule A sample cleaning schedule on the next slide shows options for daily cleaning that can be performed by museum staff Daily routines are staggered (see * in each box) As tasks are completed, staff initials are entered into the corresponding box Schedules should be saved and filed in chronological order for future reference
Sample Cleaning Schedule MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySunday Mop front Entrance ****** Sweep Floors-All ****** Clean glass display cases ** Vacuum Floor Mats * Dust Artefacts- South Wall * Dust artefacts- North Wall * Dust Artefacts- East Wall * Dust Artefacts- West Wall * Inspect Pest Traps *
Why Clean? Dust is everywhere. If ignored, it will aesthetically disfigure and may even physically damage objects Dust is not a single material. It is composed of fine particles of loose surface soil (sand and organic debris), sawdust, pollen, combustion by products, textile fibres, hairs, flakes of dead skin, dust mites, insect bodies, and food particles. It varies seasonally and even daily from place-to- place.
Dusting: Always dust from the top to the bottom of an object to prevent dust from falling on clean surfaces. Take utmost care in dusting, remove rings, watches, and bracelets that may inadvertently cause surface scratches. If you have to touch the object, wear clean white cotton gloves to keep surfaces free of skin acids and oils. Good lighting is essential to see conditions and work progress.
Dusting: Vacuum Use a vacuum cleaner so that dust can be collected and taken away from the building for disposal A good vacuum cleaner collects dust efficiently and effectively and is equipped with a filtration system that prevents collected dust from blowing back out into the air.
Dusting: Vacuum The vacuum cleaner should be outfitted with a clean brush attachment and a plastic nozzle, gauze or fibreglass screening should be attached over the end of the nozzle (use a tight fitting rubber band to attach) By adding this “screen” to the vacuum, any loose pieces or decorations that might otherwise be sucked up into the vacuum collect on the surface of the screen and can be then be saved to be reviewed by the Curator.
Step 1 Wrap a section of screen around the nozzle of the vacuum Step 2 Using an elastic band or twill tape, secure the screen to the nozzle Finished Product A vacuum nozzle covered with fibre glass screening- the screen will catch and save loose pieces that normally would be sucked up into the vacuum
Dusting: Brushes Depending upon the size of the object, many different brushes can be used in conjunction with a vacuum cleaner for dusting. All bushes should be clean, and be made of natural bristles. The softness or stiffness of a brush needed will depend upon the fragility of the artefact, decorations and extent of the dust.
To avoid scratching a surface with the ferrule (the metal piece that holds the hairs to the handle), cover the base (where the metal meets the hairs) with fabric tape New, clean shaving brushes and artist brushes in various sizes work well as dusting brushes Brushes should be routinely cleaned with a mild soap (Orvus Paste) and allowed to dry fully before use
Dusting: Vacuum and Brush A Vacuum cleaner (with nozzle covered with gauze or fibreglass screening) can be used to suck up dust that has been loosened with a hand-held brush. Hold the vacuum cleaner nozzle about one inch from the surface and use the brush to sweep the dust into the suction of the nozzle.
Dust Cloths Dust cloths are useful, especially on large, flat, stable surfaces Use dust cloths of plain soft cotton, or microfiber cloths Use a clean cloth to lightly pass over an object’s surface, turning and folding the cloth Dirty cloths will not be as efficient as clean cloths and old dust may contain gritty materials that can scratch artefacts
Launder cloths by hand with the mild soap (Orvus paste) and rinse well Do not use electric washing machines or dryers as previous soap residue could penetrate the cloth Do not use commercial aerosol dusting sprays, these sprays often contain oils that can darken or stain and will leave surfaces with an electrostatic charge that will, in fact, attract dust
Museums have been given the publics trust, this trust is based upon the understanding that museums are responsible for the collection, protection and interpretation of their artefacts. Regular and carefully cleaning can extend the life of, and enhance the appearance of our valued treasurers.