We’ve got some wonderful building exhibits in our collection but did you know that we also have a collection of around 15,000 rural, trade and building artefacts which have been collected since the beginnings of the museum 50 years ago?
Like the buildings, all these artefacts need care so that they can be enjoyed for generations to come.
As you can imagine, keeping on top of a few thousand artefacts is no mean feat! Some visitors to the store have likened it to ‘The Forth Bridge’ as it seems a never ending task but whether we are ‘cleaning up’ a newly gifted collection item or giving an older piece a bit of TLC, it gives us a chance to really appreciate the artefact.
An important point is we try not to ‘restore’ items unless we wish to use it in demonstrations, for example, our horse-drawn equipment – as broken or missing pieces would make it un-safe and un-usable. When we collect artefacts, we collect their story too – we like to know about the people who used the item, where it was used and how it was used. This means that the wear and tear all form part of the item’s story and isn’t repaired.
Of course, we do need to do some work – after all we don’t need that ‘woodworm’ beetle staying part of the artefact’s story and then going on to infest the rest of the collection, and we don’t need rust continuing to munch through our metalwork – so we carry out ‘preventative conservation’, this stabilises and protects the artefact against further damage.
To help us to carry out preventative conservation, we have a little armoury of products and techniques but we also need to be mindful about how we store things.
Our purpose-built artefact store under the Gridshell Building houses the majority of our collection and its design helps us to maintain a suitable and stable environment for the collection. The basement position of the store means it is protected and dark (until the lights are switched on), relative humidity (moisture in the air) and temperature measurements are taken regularly and there is under-floor heating which can be tweaked to get the environment just right.
For a little more on the collection, please visit our Collections page.