Touch Panel to Promote Preservation

Last fall some of our C2C team attended an interesting presentation about an exhibition in Colonial Williamsburg entitled “Conservation: Where Art and Science Meet.”  Emily Williams, a conservator at CW, developed the exhibit.  Most surprising about her presentation was how popular the topic proved to be; in fact, that show had record-breaking attendance. 

Colonial Williamsburg's touch panel from the exhibition, "Conservation: Where Art and Science Meet"

One of the more interactive parts of that exhibit was a type of “touch panel,” where visitors could touch an array of materials partially protected by a Plexiglas cover. These included (from left to right) steel, marble, velvet, unfinished wood, brass, leather, painted wood, cotton fabric, granite, and copper.  Panel text invited visitors to touch the various materials, and they could see the contrast between the touchable areas and the more pristine sections beneath the Plexiglas.  Many were amazed at how quickly certain materials degraded.

 A smaller version of this panel is something most of our C2C network’s cultural heritage organizations can implement for two purposes:

  1. The touch panel would educate visitors about the need to protect artifacts from handling and other damage. 
  2. A donation box accompanying the touch panel would remind visitors about the costs involved in artifact preservation and the need for those activities to be a perpetual part of the institution’s budget.

 You would not have to include all of the same materials that Colonial Williamsburg showcased.  Painted wood, scrap metal sheeting, blotting paper, and velvet are all inexpensive and fairly easy to obtain.  Brainstorm additional materials to include that would show wear and tear from handling.  If you have a taxidermy collection, for instance, you might want to include feathers.  If you give this project a try, we’d love to hear about its success. 

What other ideas have you tried in order to promote preservation (activities and funding) amongst your institution’s constituents?

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About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on August 15, 2011, in collections access, collections care, Exhibitions and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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