San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature Connection[San Diego Natural History Museum: Collections Care & Conservation]
Preventive conservation at your home or work

What do you have?
What damage might you see?
What can you do?


Caring for Collections

Many of our techniques for preventive conservation are ones you can use with your own collection of treasures at home--or a collection at your school.

It is helpful to understand what kind of materials you have in your collection. This will affect what kind of damage you might expect to see, and the steps you should take to protect your collection.

What do you have?

Some materials you can identify quite easily, but many will be more difficult. If you have a doll with clothing, for example, is the doll made from plastic or a ceramic? Is the clothing entirely made from cotton threads or is it a composite? Is the cloth impregnated with a chemical sizing or stiffener to make the skirt stand out?

Kachina doll

Most objects in a collection contain more than one type of material, even an object as simple as a pencil drawing on a piece of paper. What kind of "pencil"? What kind of paper?

Because objects are made from a variety of materials, individual objects have different levels of sensitivity to their environments. Knowing what the materials are in an object will help you make decisions on how to care for them.

Some of the materials you might have include:

  • Paper
  • Glues and adhesives
  • Textiles (natural vs synthetic fibers)
  • Dyes and pigments
  • Bone
  • Photographic films
  • Feathers
  • Ivory
  • Wood
  • Gems, minerals, stone

What damage might you see?
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Collections | Caring for Collections | BRCC