How do museums make sure artifacts are properly preserved
Museums are places we go to learn about times past using the ancient artifacts on display. Some of these exhibits are thousands of years old but are beautifully preserved. Just think of the giant dinosaur bones hanging in the Natural History Museum and the 5,000-year-old prehistoric art discovered just recently in east Yorkshire.
Surely time and exposure to the elements will take their toll on these precious relics – so how do they do it? It’s not as complicated as you might think. Here is how museums keep their artifacts properly preserved and protected:
Specialists and curators
The nature of the relic will depend on how it is stored, so an ancient book is unlikely to be preserved in the same way as a skeleton or art piece. With each of these different types of artifacts comes a curator who specialises in the individual and specific care of each item.
Museums will usually have a team of these specialists who knows exactly what each historical piece needs to be maintained. They will know how to safely handle items, as well as look out for signs of deterioration and how to properly restore them.
Ever noticed how cool museums are on the inside? That is because museums are typically air-conditioned to keep heat and humidity levels down, which are some of the biggest threats to ancient relics. It can speed up the deterioration process by disfiguring, rusting, and melting artifacts.
For this reason, air purifiers and conditioning units maintain a consistent temperature, which is essential to the preservation of exhibits.
Though it only happens in very rare circumstances, artifacts can be stolen or vandalised, often with permanent side effects. Just last year Van Gogh’s famous Sunflowers painting was defaced with Heinz soup and other exhibits have faced similar action.
To keep theft and vandalism to a minimum, museums hire security to patrol the property and protect the many artifacts inside. Often these relics and art pieces are invaluable and worth millions of pounds, making them targets to opportunists.
You might be surprised to hear that improper lighting is another danger to historical pieces and artwork. Any lights containing UV rays can seriously darken and degrade colour and print so LEDs are frequently used to allow visitors to view exhibits.