Conservation of heritage assets in museums is about the careful management of change. The default position ought to be, and largely is, to minimise rates of change in order to preserve the intrinsic value of the asset. This is in order to support the development of intellectual capital and narratives by curatorial and education staff, all part of service delivery to that key person in the equation, you the visitor. Conservation can be through preventive conservation, whereby each agent of deterioration is identified, the likelihood of its causing damage is assessed, and steps taken to avoid or mitigate its effects. It can also mean remedial works, anything from minor works, like re-attaching bits that fall off furniture (kind of the background hum to my work), to major interventive, and sometimes re-constructive works, such as that detailed about the Queen Anne State Bed at Temple Newsam House in earlier Secret Lives of Objects blogs, or the pair of Chippendale window pelmets from the Drawing Room at Burton Constable Hall, which were approaching the point of no return from extensive woodworm damage, various pictures below.
Conservation advice links
For advice on furniture conservation that you can download, or view online, I refer you to something I wrote for the Institute for Conservation, available via the following link: http://www.icon.org.uk/images/stories/furniture.pdf
The next link takes you to more explanations of conservation, collections, interiors, preventive and remedial treatments, etc. in the context of an historic house, and altogether more information about Temple Newsam’s history, and the collections, than is available through the main Leeds Museums and Galleries website:
The Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) has masses of easily accesible information of practical use in helping to make choices regarding preventive and remedial care of heritage assets, portable and built, and it ought to be referred to in more websites of museum services. The collection care advice given on so many museum websites generally tend to fall in to one of two categories, either so basic as to be essentially useless, or good information, but not well organised, and difficult to navigate. Why re-invent the wheel?
Posted by Ian Fraser