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Museum Practices

Updated: May 26, 2022

Conservation vs. restoration

“Is your goal to fix an artifact or preserve it?”

A Collection Manager's dilemma

I have both a museum and archaeology background, and the above question can start a serious debate. Conservation requires preservation, that is, a way to ensure an artifact will no longer degrade and is protected by the influences of man and environment. Restoration is the process of bringing an artifact back to its original form, without the tell-tales signs of age. Obviously the ultimate goal is the safety of the artifact.

Field Manor received a donation of infant/toddler clothes from Roxy B. a number of years ago, and they were recently checked for their condition. The clothes are from the turn of the 20th century. It was apparent that time was taking its toll in the form of foxing. Foxing appears as brown spots on the fabric, similar to what you see in old books. Although not interested in restoring the articles of clothing, we were interested in conserving what we could.

We have completed three toddler bonnets and are readying them for display. We cleaned the bonnets, air dried them, and will mount them on acid-free material to prevent further deterioration.


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