22 October 2015




Throughout their training an over the course of their careers conservators and collections managers tend to develop a rather extensive library of reference materials relating to their specific area of focus (e.g. objects, paper, fine art) or the collections they care for. Some of these reference tools can be costly, but many others can be accessed online or downloaded and printed, for free!

Before a conservator can commence any treatment or develop a preventive conservation plan for an object, the object has to be identified. Identification can be a straightforward process, and professional conservators may be able to identify objects simply through years of experience or by means of chemical tests. However, for the emerging professional, reference tools outlining the various properties, methods of fabrication, and identifying features of object types are invaluable. Identification of the object and its composition is crucial in terms of understanding the chemical and physical properties of the object, how it was made, used, what types of damage it is susceptible to, and how it degrades over time.

This semester in INF2162 Rare Books and MSL2440 The Photographic Record, my classmates and I were given a selection of assignments and tests that required the identification of different types of prints and photographic types, which has required me to draw upon some of my favourite reference resources. So I thought for this post, rather than outlining a object treatment I would share with you some of the useful resources I have come to rely on and that have helped me to identify objects and develop strategies for their care and treatment.



CCI-Notes are intended for a broad audience and offer practical advice about issues and questions related to the care, handling, and storage of cultural objects. Many of the documents which can be view online or downloaded as PDFs are illustrated, and provide bibliographies as well as suggestions for contacting suppliers. Additional information on caring for objects and collections can be sourced from their articles on Types of Objects and Collections and Preventive Conservation and Agents of Deterioration, including information on  “Environmental Guidelines for Museums,” “Mould Outbreak - An Immediate Response,” and “Six Steps to Safe Shipment.”

Conserve-O-Grams are short, focused leaflets about caring for museum objects, published in loose-leaf format useful for experienced and inexperienced museum staff who are responsible for the care and use of museum collections, as well as interested individuals who have private collections. They include specific procedures, techniques and materials to care for your objects, as well as resource lists and bibliographies, and contain up to date museum and archival techniques and practices.

The NPS Museum Handbook is a detailed and informative reference guide on how to manage, preserve, document, access and use museum collections. The three parts of the handbook (i.e. Part I, MuseumCollections; Part II, Museum Records; and Part III, Museum Collections Use) can be accessed and downloaded as PDFs. NPS has also developed a useful Quick Reference tool which provides a detailed list of keywords and search terms and their location within the three parts.

A well designed and informative object-based approach for the identification and characterization of prints and photographs. High-resolution scans of different photographic and print types can be identified by means of different light sources (e.g. overhead and raking light) and magnifications, allowing the viewer to manipulate the image to gain a better sense of the physical composition of these different object types.

A Series of fact sheets giving general advice on the care and conservation of a range of different materials and objects. Each  gives an overview of the materials involved, what can go wrong and why, what can be done to prevent and alleviate deterioration, and examples of some of the situations in which it is particularly beneficial to ask a conservator for help and advice.

Printed Sources


Bachmann, Konstanze, ed. Conservation Concerns: A Guide for Collectors and Curators. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992.

One of the most accessible and non-technical texts available, through a series of short essays Written in accessible the contributing contributors provide invaluable conservation guidelines for a variety of materials and media. With a focus on proper storage techniques and environmental control, contributors also provide information on emergency planning, disaster management, and identifying damages that may require professional treatment.

Bonus: This book is a required text for MSL2100 The Museum Environment.

$15 CDN (Amazon.ca)

Foekje, Boersma. Unravelling Textiles: A Handbook for the Preservation of Textile Collections. London: Archetype Publications, 2000.

Basic information for the professional safekeeping of textile collections; aimed at curators, collectors of textiles, conservators and students.

$63 CDN (Amazon.ca)

Reilley, James M. Care and Identification of 19th-Century Photographic Prints. Rochester: Eastman Kodak Company, 2009.

This book contains everything one needs to approximately date a print, and correctly catalog it. Discusses safe enclosures and how to recognize various forms of deterioration, and provides proper storage, handling and display guidelines. The text presents technical information in plain understandable language, supported by high-quality colour reproductions of the various print types and their forms of deterioration.

$60 USD (Image Permanence Institute)

Ritzenthaler, Mary Lynn. Preserving Archives & Manuscripts Second Edition. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2010.

Known as the authoritative resource for those responsible for the preservation of archives, manuscripts, and historical collections. The text covers a wide range of materials found in archival holdings and addresses practical means of implementing preservation programs.

$63 USD (Society of American Archivists)

Southeastern Registrars Association. Basic Condition Reporting: A Handbook Third Edition, Revised & Expanded. Edited by Deborah Rose Van Horn, Heather Culligan and Corinne Midgett. Rowman & Littlefield, 1998.

An invaluable resource to any museum professional who manages collections, which provides a standard vocabulary for all of the individuals in a museum that may be conducting condition reports.

$54 CDN (Amazon.ca)

Twyman, Michael. The British Library Guide to Printing: History and Techniques. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999.

An authoritative introduction to printing methods and techniques, from the invention of printing to today's digital revolution with colour and black-and-white illustrations, the text provides an accessible introduction to the history of books and how they are made.

$28 CDN (Amazon.ca)

Williams, Nigel. Porcelain Repair and Restoration: A Handbook. London: The British Museum, 2002.

A practical handbook for repairing or restoring prized pieces of porcelain. The book explains step-by-step, how to achieve excellent results with a variety of techniques, illustrated with photographs and explanatory line drawings and diagrams that detail the functions and uses of specialist tools.

$39 CDN (Amazon.ca)


I invite you to share your own resources by posting links or titles in the comments section! 

No comments:

Post a Comment