Yesterday's Collection Bites let us see behind the scenes with Manchester Museum's precious objects. Two conservationists from the museum showed us some of the objects they had been working on and their methods.
The steps to looking after the objects as a conservationist are as follows:
This beautiful Norwegian headdress was worn to show the in-between status of the bride, as a crown for her wedding day. Before this girls would wear their hair down or a hat to show they were maidens so this was a special symbol for an important day. It would be a treasured possession passed down throughout the family with each bride wearing it and adding their own extra embellishment. I asked if there were any signs of additions but the piece was in such a state that it was hard to tell although the beaded fabric section at the front was pinned in place rather than sewn, as if too precious to actually commit to making a change.
This echoes what many conservationists believe: that the originality of the object should be preserved with restorations being made in non-permanent ways wherever possible.
I also learned a new method for protecting the pieces - I had not heard of "Scavengers" before. This is the term for the method of attracting corrosion or decay from the precious artefact to another item as a decoy. The wool in the headdress will erode the silver pendants of this headdress so they plan to put something else nearer so that it takes the effects. This means the silver pieces can be left natural and untreated. Many display cabinets have their controls built in so you can't see them such as the cloth they are upholstered in.