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Moving a Collection – Part 3

The WDM Corporate Office is currently moving the Small Artifacts and Documents Collection. Learn more about the project here. The first step was to conduct an inventory of the Collection. Because the inventory process requires Collections staff to physically observe each artifact, it is an excellent time for them to assess and improve how the artifacts are housed in the storage space. Some of the problems that are being monitored for include overcrowding of artifacts, poor artifact support and issues with storage materials.

Condition Issues

A significant part of caring for a collection at a museum is creating the correct environment to slow the speed of deterioration. This involves actions such as controlling the temperature and relative humidity of the storage environment or reducing exposure to visible light and Ultra-Violet (UV) light. Sometimes these measures are not enough, and artifacts will need a specialized storage environment.

During the inventory of the WDM’s small artifacts and documents collection staff discovered a straight razor, which was showing signs of active corrosion. The telltale sign of active corrosion bright red powder, which is easily disturbed.

Straight razor from the WDM Collection. Click to enlarge

Straight razor from the WDM Collection. Click to enlarge

Straight razor from the WDM Collection. Close-up of corrosion product. Click to enlarge

Why did this occur?

The razor is composed of a metal blade and a plastic handle. The corrosion was most likely caused by the plastic handle, either through build-up of a static charge or creating a microenvironment by holding in water vapour.

After taking updated photos for the Museum’s database, staff:

Created a custom box to store the artifact in the new environment. The box is made from acid-free paper board.

Custom box for storage of artifact. Click to enlarge

 

Volara, a polyethylene foam, was added to supply padding.

Razor in custom box with Volara padding. Click to enlarge

The artifact was put into a polyethylene bag and then placed in a second polyethylene bag along with a humidity indicator.

Artifact double bagged with a humidity indicator. Click to enlarge

Package was placed in the upright freezer in our conservation lab.

Upright freezer in WDM Conservation lab. Click to enlarge

Artifact in its new storage environment. Click to enlarge

Storing the straight razor in the freezer will slow the rate of deterioration by reducing the temperature and removing the threat of water, which is necessary for the process of corrosion to occur, making it the most appropriate storage environment for the artifact. The humidity indicator is an important visual gauge for collections staff. It will alert staff to the presence of water, indicating that the artifact is at risk and further action must be taken.

Improvements to artifact housing and identifying problems is just one small part of this collections move. However, they play an important role in caring for a museum’s collection. By utilizing their skills and knowledge about care of collections and preventive conservation, collections and conservation staff help preserve artifacts for current and future generations to experience.

By: Jill Baron, Curatorial Assistant

 

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