Military Artifact Preventative Conservation



Statement of Intent

Artifacts held in private collections should be recorded, treated and preserved in a manner equal or superior to those held in public collections.


Introduction

Welcome to the Beta test version of the Military Artifact Preventative Conservation website. This site is under construction, and should be more or less complete by the end of 2008... maybe.

These pages are intended primarily for private collectors of military artifacts and are an adjunct to the main Military Police Virtual Museum website. It is intended for these pages to serve as an introductory guide to identifying possible threats to artifacts as well as basic measures that can easily be taken by individuals to prevent damage to the artifacts in their care. A part of each page is a "Gallery of Horror" with graphic examples of severe damage to artifacts. Damage causes, prevention and recovery are discussed. I have deliberately kept these pages brief, in effect an online notebook useful as a quick reference.

Comments and suggestions about these pages are appreciated. The Webmaster can be contacted at:

webmaster@mpmuseum.org

Conservation and Collecting - An Overview

Nothing lasts forever. No matter how well preserved or cared for, eventually everything will deteriorate. The process of deterioration may take only minutes, or it may take centuries. The aim of a private collector should be that of any person responsible for the care of a collection: to take all possible steps to slow down the process of deterioration, prevent damage, and maintain the integrity of the artifact.
The quantity and quality of objects held by private militaria collectors is truly staggering. Thousands of historic and culturaly significant uniforms, medals and documents reside in private collections. One has only to search for "militaria" on EBay to get a small idea of the extent of the vastness of the field. The majority of serious collectors will have some familiarity with proper storage and damage prevention procedures, many collectors are themselves museum professionals.

Preventative Conservation

These pages will be primarily concerned with Preventive conservation. Briefly, preventive conservation measures can be defined as "steps taken to prevent, minimise or delay deterioration or damage to artifacts". A preventive conservation measure may be as simple as applying a coat of oil to a sword blade, or wearing gloves when handling a medal group. Environment, storage and display mounts and potential threats to collections will be discussed. As well, documentation and record keeping are covered. The measures and techniques described in these pages are easily within the means of any beginning collector.

With the exception of a few basic cleaning techniques, detailed conservation treatments are intentionally not covered in this site. Most treatments should only be carried out by a trained conservator.

Who is the Webmaster?

A former member of the Canadian Forces and a graduate of the Museum Technology (now the Applied Museum Studies) program at Algonquin College in Ottawa, I am a contract museum collections specialist and have worked at a number of large and small Canadian museums holding extensive military collections. I've been a collector of military artifacts for over 35 years, my first acquisitions being a German Pickelhaube and a French hand grenade when I was 12. Currently I collect Canadian Military Police related artifacts with the intention of opening a museum in Ottawa. My major field of conservation interest is in historic textiles.

A Career in a Museum?

To those visitors to this site (both of you) who may be considering a career in museum work, I have but three words... Think about it! If you want to make a lot of money, choose another career. But if you have a true interest in our history and heritage, have a scientific or technical bent and don't mind fighting with the cat over that last tin of tuna while waiting for your next paycheque, collections work in a museum can be interesting if not exactly financially rewarding.


If you accessed this page from an outside link or search engine and do not see a navigation bar on the left side of the page, click HERE to go to the Canadian Military Police Virtual Museum main page.