Conserve and display

Knowing how to look after our archive items whilst in store and on display is an important part of our work at the museum.  It means we can be confident we are protecting the collection for years to come.

Our Collections Manager, Zoe Utley recently gained some additional skills and ideas from experts at the West Yorkshire History Centre, Wakefield, where their conservation team ran a course for members of the Yorkshire and Humberside Federation of Museums. There was also the opportunity to have a look round the centre’s impressive reading rooms, stores and conservation studio.

Replacing a rusty staple with a thread binding to keep papers together.

“Looking after the museum’s collection correctly is paramount,” explains Zoe. “The way we handle, store and display the objects in our care has a huge impact on them. The effects of poor practice can lead to further damage of already fragile items, so it’s really important to continually refresh our knowledge.”

The course covered the basics of condition checking, storage and packaging of paper based objects, as well as practical training in cleaning archive, repairing simple tears using wheat paste and Japanese tissue paper, creating bespoke book enclosures and mount-making for archive and books.

“Sometimes we take the decision not to display an item because it’s dirty or stained or is torn, and sometimes we have to send material to a conservator for really simple repairs.

Thanks to the training, we can now carry out simple conservation treatments, such as cleaning and repairing torn papers in-house. I gained a lot of confidence from the practical instruction during the course.”

A book cushion featuring text from the diary it is supporting.

The training has a double benefit.

Not only did it give instruction on recommending how best to carry out simple repairs and package objects securely for storage, it also provided practical instruction and inspiration for making display mounts, which we will be putting into practice in the museum, especially in our special exhibitions.