Preventive conservation improves the condition of the collection
as a whole rather than focusing on each individual object. By
making these overall improvements, individual problems are less
likely to happen. The "big picture" approach of preventive
Temperature and Relative Humidity
Artifacts and specimens are best preserved in stable
environmental conditions. Frequent changes in temperature or
relative humidity can cause materials to expand and contract.
This, in turn, can lead to cracks, embrittlement, and other
deleterious effects. Conservators monitor the temperature and
humidity in galleries and collections storage, and work with
Building Operations to stabilize the environment in these
Integrated Pest Management
Insects find their way into every building-and museums are no
exception. Wool-eating clothes moths are familiar to most
people, but there are also insects that eat wood, leather,
feathers, and even paper. As all of these natural materials
are present in the collection at DMNS, insect pests would be very
happy to make our collection their home. Integrated Pest
Management (IPM) is a multifaceted approach to monitoring and
eradicating pests. Each exhibit and collection storage area
is checked regularly for damaging insects. Through this strict
monitoring program, the Museum can avoid using the harmful
pesticides that may have been common in the past. In the rare
event that an infestation is discovered, the specimen or artifact
can be frozen at a low-temperature to naturally kill the pests.
Light can cause irreversible fading to a variety of colorful
materials including dyed textiles, animal fur and feathers, and
even some minerals. Conservators consider the light
sensitivity of each object before it goes on display, and make
recommendations on appropriate light levels. Artifacts that
are particularly light sensitive might only go on display for 3-6
months, whereas more durable artifacts could be displayed
indefinitely. In a museum, conservators must balance risks
such as light damage with the need for displaying important
collection items for the benefit of the public.
Mount Making for Exhibits and Storage
When artifacts and specimens are displayed, a supportive
structure-or mount-is often created to hold it securely in place.
Conservators provide information on the stability of the
artifact to experienced mount makers, who then fabricate unique and
unobtrusive mounts for display.
Museum objects typically need supportive structures while in
storage as well, to minimize the need for handling. These
mounts typically involve a box or overall structure to contain the
object, and padding to support and keep the object from moving.
When objects are transported within the museum, staff can
handle the storage box without actually touching the artifact.
The DMNS Conservation Department participates in public outreach
events in order to educate the public on how to care for their own
collections, as well as how to be good stewards for the Museum's
collections. Education is a powerful tool to ensure the
preservation of cultural and scientific heritage.