The aim of compiling the original version (1998) of Conservation and Care of Collections was to provide a basis for an holistic approach to the care and conservation of movable cultural material held in small museums, National Trust houses, historical societies and private collections.
As such the layout and content was designed with these client groups in mind and it was not intended to be the definitive conservation manual. The publication was concerned specifically with the objects and images found in the targeted collections and did not attempt to comment on or categorise heritage sites or buildings.
This revised edition builds on the first, with revised content and updated information, particularly with respect to recommendations regarding environmental parameters best suited for particular material types.
Over the nearly 20 years since the original publication there have been considerable advances made in the materials conservation area, most notably in the scientific analysis of materials and the application of sophisticated treatment techniques.
The application of high-powered analytical techniques and conservation practices including combined gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, the synchrotron, laser scanning and associated technologies, 3-D printing and nanotechnologies has pushed conservation to incredible levels and will continue to do so into the future.
Unfortunately many of these recent advances in the profession are expensive to access and require highly sophisticated equipment and expertise, limiting their use to larger institutions. Thus many new techniques cannot be applied by general collectors and small institutions. For this reason, the focus of this revised edition has remained on practices and techniques that are simpler and more generally accessible. Information has been presented on a range of levels suitable to both institutions and individuals.
The chapter layouts are designed to provide a breadth of information for collectors. For example, a brief historical background is included in the introduction to each material type. Such information, used in conjunction with details concerning agents of decay, possible treatments and correct storage and display conditions, should ensure that appropriate conservation management strategies are adopted.
There is a deliberate concentration on material types as opposed to types of objects. In this way we hope to broaden the understanding of approaches to conservation rather than merely deal with object-specific treatments. An example of this approach can be seen in the chapter on wood where the understanding of the nature of material is primary and the treatment of furniture as a specific object is secondary.
Although the emphasis of this book is on preventive conservation, hands-on treatments will be necessary for some materials. For this reason specific treatment regimes are described. Extreme caution should be exercised in applying these treatments however and professional assistance is recommended in most cases.
The Western Australian Museum's Department of Materials Conservation has had a commitment to an outreach program since its inception. This publication is an extension of the program, and in conjunction with continued cooperation between conservation professionals and collectors in all areas, should provide a sound basis for the care of our widely scattered cultural heritage.
The editors wish to thank all of the contributors and pay respect to current and former employees whose work helped establish the reputation of this department. Special thanks must go to the former departmental registrar Lucy Burrow for her help in preparing this publication, particularly the graphics.
2017 revised edition editor - Ian Godfrey.
1998 original edition editors - David Gilroy and Ian Godfrey.
This publication was created by the Western Australian Museum's Department of Materials Conservation.