Display Your Treasures
Proper display of valued objects will
help prevent damage and loss. We
have all seen textiles that have faded due to overexposure to
light and paper objects rusted by thumbtacks. These types of
damage can be reduced by using safe materials and methods, and
ensuring safe environmental conditions for our items on display.
All materials used in the display of objects should be acid-free
and lignin-free. This includes materials like mat board, fabric,
stuffing, supports, cases, and shelving.
Wood is neither acid-free nor lignin-free
and is not a preferred material for exhibiting valued objects.
Painting wood does not stop the emission of acidic gasses from
wood. These gasses attack nearby objects and cause damage. Often,
the paint applied to wood only adds its own volatile gasses to
the mix, accelerating or exacerbating the damage. Wood surfaces
can be covered with a barrier film like Marvel Seal®.
There has been a lot of research into the
safety of materials for use in museum exhibits and some of this
information can be extrapolated for use in smaller museums and
in the home.
Safe matting for paper objects and textiles involves the use
of acid-free, lignin-free mat board, cardboard, fabric, paper,
and other materials. Adhesives should never be applied to the
object itself, except in the case where wheat starch paste is
used to adhere Japanese tissue hinges to paper objects. (See
below.) Liquid adhesive and self-adhesive tape should not be
applied to textiles, metals, or any other object materials.Textiles
should never be stapled to backboards.
The parts of a well framed object include the frame, the frame
rabbet lined with inert felt, glazing of either glass or polyester
sheet (Plexiglas®), a window mat, the object, a back mat
board, a thin sheet of inert vapor barrier, an acid free lignin
free cardboard backing board, two mounting brackets, perimeter
tape to seal the backing to the frame, and two d-rings for hanging.
See the information listed below for detailed information about
There are many good references that describe safe mounts to use
for three dimensional objects on display. Mounts can be complex
and expensive, but if your item is rare and valuable, you should
consider a museum quality mount.
Light, temperature, relative humidity, and atmospheric pollutants
make up the environment that surrounds an object on display.
Low light levels, short exposure times, moderate temperature,
controlled relative humidity, and clean air are all needed for
objects to be safe on display.
Maintaining Your Collections:
- Moderate temperature.
- Keep relative humidity level constant,
with few fluctuations.
- Don't crowd objects.
- Store dolls face down to protect eye weights.
- Protect from light and dust.
- Don't hang textiles.
- No pins, tape, or ink.
- Don't place in or on wood.
Light Levels and Exposure
Light causes significant damage to textiles, works of art on
paper and other sensitive materials. Often, one coloring materials
will fade faster than the others, causing color shifts in works
of art and other objects. Even seemingly hardy objects like finished
wooden furniture will fade in extreme exposure.
- Radio Waves
(Radar, TV, FM, AM)
The amount of energy carried by these waves is relatively small.
Radar, TV, FM, and AM Radio waves are flying around in the air
all of the time. They are low enough energy that they don't hurt
us. The wavelength of these energy waves is very large. TV waves
are about one foot in size, which is why when you move about
a room in your home you can interrupt TV interception. TV antenna
branches are about a foot apart to catch as many waves as possible
for better reception. Radio waves are even larger, as much as
many feet in size, which is why when you drive around tall buildings
in a city your radio reception can be interrupted.
Exposure to visible and ultraviolet radiation can be a significant
factor in the survival of objects. It is important to limit the
level (foot-candles or lux), type (visible or ultraviolet) and
length of exposure (minutes to days of illumination) to visible
and ultraviolet radiation in order to protect objects. Generally
accepted levels of visible illumination for preservation range
from 2 to 5 foot-candles for sensitive materials like watercolors
and silk textiles, to 30 to 50 foot-candles for materials that
are not as light sensitive like paintings or furniture. Only
the materials most resistant to light damage such as ceramics,
metals, or stone can withstand light levels above 50 to 60 foot
candles. Even these materials will be damaged if they include
organic resins, paints, or repairs.
Temperature and Relative Humidity
Temperature that is too high or too low can damage objects on
Relative humidity that is above 55% and below 25% can damage
items on display.
Books / Bibles / Scrapbooks
Works of Art
Textiles / Clothing
Tools / Mechanical / Instruments
Dishes / Glassware / Silverware
Preservation Documents (pdfs)
Glossary of Terms
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