Preservation Supply Wish List

emptyBabyFoodOften when we’re putting together sample supplies to hand out at workshops, we wish we had multiples of  a fairly common item that we could use to store products with limited shelf lives. Clean glass baby food jars, for instance, would be great to store and/or distribute small amounts of Renaissance Wax, which dries out and hardens quickly in many types of plastic containers. These jars could also be good to contain silica gel beads. By piercing the metal lid with an awl, the gel could work within a microclimate (such as a storage box or exhibit case) to either dessicate or buffer relative humidity, depending the optimum environment for the artifact materials inside. The clear glass would allow quick visibility for color indicating silica gel, which looses its orange pigment upon becoming saturated with moisture.

One museum audience engagement expert has remarked upon wish lists as participatory experiences. Collecting materials that would otherwise be cast off is an additional way for community members to contribute to your organization. Have you considered issuing wish lists for preservation and/or public program supplies at your institution?

Several of our workshop partners and participants have had success collecting preservation and other supplies this way. Bob Hopkins, of the NC Transportation Museum and exhibits workshop instructor, maintains a wish list that includes empty pill bottles (with prescriptions removed for privacy). Volunteers bring these in for Bob to store variously gauged stainless steel mounting pins. Director of the Orange County Historical Museum, Brandie Fields, has engaged volunteers with collecting silica gel packets from their leather goods, pharmaceuticals, and electronics to donate as a preservation supply. Fields can bake the donated colorless silica beads at a low temperature to regenerate them and then mix them with the samples of orange-indicating beads she’s received at our workshops.

In addition to babyfood jars, pill bottles, and silica gel, a preservation supply wish list could also include ethafoam. Electronics often come packaged with good ethafoam that can be carved into shapes for artifact storage or even display mounts. We want to avoid styrofoam, since it is not preservation appropriate, but the more malleable poly ethylene foam is normally safe (unless it’s light pink anti-static foam which contains residues that can harm some artifacts) and can be a great preservation tool.

What other common products could be put to good preservation uses? What supplies have you had success collecting from your institution’s community?

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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 February 4, 2014, in collections care, Connecting to Collections, public programs, workshops and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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