Skip to content

Collections Care by Type

The Alliance has compiled this set of collections resources from throughout the nonprofit and museum sector.

Archaeological and Natural History Collections

Bone, Antler, Ivory, and Teeth

Minnesota Historical Society shares information about conserving bone, antler, ivory and teeth (PDF, 5 pages).

Curatorial Care of Natural History Collections

The National Park Service’s (NPS) Museum Handbook (PDF) has a 37-page chapter on the care of natural history collections, including biological, botanical, entomological, vertebrate, geological, paleontological, and environmental research collections. It discusses different kinds of specimens, preparation standards and techniques, and labeling. It also includes a glossary.

Shell

Minnesota Historical Society shares information about conserving shell (PDF, 5 pages).

Taking Care of Wet Archaeological Artifacts

The Minnesota Historical Society offers general guidelines for conserving objects excavated from freshwater sites (PDF).

Plant Materials

Minnesota Historical Society shares information about conserving plant materials (PDF, 9 pages).

Quills, Horn, Hair, Feathers, Claws, and Baleen

Minnesota Historical Society shares information about conserving quills, horn, antler, hair, feathers, claws, and baleen (PDF, 9 pages).

Back to top of page

Baskets, Furniture and Wooden Objects

Care of Basketry

The Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) offers this comprehensive guide to caring for baskets as part of their CCI Notes. This guide covers storage, handling, dust, cleaning, and environmental concerns.

Care and Preservation of Furniture and Wooden Objects

The Henry Ford has a fact sheet with steps to minimize damage and guidelines for handling and cleaning. It includes a bibliography. Although written for private individuals, it contains basic technical information that may be useful to smaller museums. (PDF, 6 pages)

Curatorial Care of Wooden Objects

The National Park Service’s (NPS) Museum Handbook (PDF) has a 30-page chapter on the care of wooden objects, including furniture. It discusses environmental factors, cleaning and waxing, handling, and conservation treatment issues.

Furniture Care and Handling

The Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education shares an online booklet that focuses on minimizing preventable damage to furniture. It discusses the environment, handling and moving procedures, and cleaning guidelines. It includes a short bibliography. (PDF, 14 pages)

Wood and Birch Bark

Minnesota Historical Society shares information about conserving wood and birch bark (PDF, 6 pages).

Back to top of page

Books and Paper

At-A-Glance Guide to Document Handling and Holdings Maintenance

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) offers an At-a-Glance Guide with do’s and don’ts for handling and caring for archival holdings.

Care of Scrapbooks

The Missouri Secretary of State provides a technical leaflet that discusses common types of damage to scrapbooks and simple actions for stabilization.

Guidelines for Shelving Bound Volumes

Although from 1990, these guidelines from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) provides useful information for shelving bound volumes.

Handling Paper Artifacts Preservation Do’s and Don’ts

The Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education shares a chart with paper preservation do’s and don’ts. (PDF, 3 pages)

Humidification and Flattening of Documents

The Missouri Secretary of State provides a technical leaflet that focuses on humidification and flattening of documents. It details the procedures and includes illustrations.

Paper

Minnesota Historical Society shares information about conserving paper (PDF, 16 pages). This resource covers everything from identifying what type of paper to care, cleaning, and storage.

Preserving Newspapers: When and How To

The Minnesota Historical Society has a leaflet that discusses deacidification and encapsulation of newspapers (PDF, 3 pages).

Preservation Photocopying

The Library of Congress provides a fact sheet with guidelines for preservation photocopying of books and paper.

Preservation of Photos, Documents, and Papers

Scrapbook.com developed this resource to help museum staff, librarians, historians, and individuals understand how papers deteriorate over time.

Back to top of page

Ceramics, Glass and Stone

Care and Preservation of Glass and Ceramics

The Henry Ford has created this fact sheet with guidelines for the care, handling, and cleaning of ceramic and glass objects. Although written for private individuals, it contains basic technical information that may be useful to smaller museums. (PDF, 7 pages)

Ceramics

Minnesota Historical Society shares information about conserving ceramics (PDF, 6 pages).

Curatorial Care of Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Objects

The National Park Service’s (NPS) Museum Handbook (PDF) has a 28-page chapter that discusses preventive conservation, care of composite items and treatment issues.

Stone

Minnesota Historical Society shares information about conserving stone (PDF, 6 pages).

Contemporary Art

Matters in Media Art

This multiphase project, designed in collaboration between the Tate, the New Art Trust, Museum of Modern Art, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, provides guidelines for the care of time-based media works of art.

Plastics and Modern Materials

Minnesota Historical Society offers this 6-page pdf with information about conserving plastics and modern materials.

Time-Based Media Art at the Smithsonian

The Smithsonian shares information and resources related to time-based media and digital art, which includes art works with technology-based components that present specific challenges for conservation, documentation, installation, and acquisition.

Back to top of page

Discs, Tapes and Cylinders

Proper Care and Handling of Audio Visual Materials

The Library of Congress has a fact sheet on the care of sound recordings, including those on wax cylinders, vinyl, tape, and CD. It discusses handling, storage, and cleaning. It also includes a bibliography and a list of suppliers.

Audiotapes and Videotapes

Minnesota Historical Society shares information about conserving audiotapes and videotapes (PDF, 6 pages).

Back to top of page

Firearms

Caring for Antique Armament

The Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute has a list of organizations that can assist museums in conserving antique armament.

Firearms

Sustaining Places offers detailed steps museums can take to care for firearms in their collections, from accessioning to handling and storing. This page also provides links to resources for researching firearms, displaying, and ensuring the safety of staff and visitors.

Lock, Stock and Barrel: Firearms Collecting for Museums

This recorded webinar from the Foundation for Advancement in Conservation (FAIC) looks at laws that govern firearms and how museums can ensure they are legally obtaining, storing, and exhibiting weapons.

Wyoming State Museum Collections Care Manual

The comprehensive 38-page collections care manual (pdf) from the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources covers all aspects of collections care, including caring for firearms (see page 22).

Back to top of page

Historic Vessels

Conserving Historic Vessels

This 7-page pdf summarises the conservation principles set down in the National Historic Ships UK (NHSUK) guidance manual Conserving Historic Vessels, giving examples of each different approach and the differing impact on a vessel’s significance.

Guidelines for the Care of Larger and Working Historic Objects

This 92-page pdf from the Association of British Transport & Engineering Museums (ABTEM) shares its Standards in the Museum Care of Larger &. Working Objects.

Recording Historic Vessels

The United Kingdom’s National Historic Ships association provides this 43-page pdf on understanding historic vessels and how to best care and record these unique collections.

Third International Conference on the Technical Aspects of the Preservation of Historic Vessels

The San Francisco Maritime National Park Association shares the proceedings from the Third International Conference on the Technical Aspects of the Preservation of Historic Vessels. More than 50 papers can be accessed from this introductory page.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Vessel Preservation Projects

The Historic Naval Ships Association provides the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Vessel Preservation Projects. The manual offers guidelines for applying the standards in the acquisition, protection, documentation, stabilization, preservation, rehabilitation, and restoration of historic vessels.

Back to top of page

Leather

Care of Historic Leather Artifacts

The Museum of Florida History provides a technical leaflet on the care of historic leather artifacts. It gives a general overview of the structure of leather, the different methods of tanning, causes of deterioration, and optimal conditions and preferred methods for handling, storage, and exhibit.

The Care of Leather and Fur

The Foundation for Advancement in Conservation (FAIC) online community hosted an hour-long webinar dedicated to the care of leather and fur objects covering the basic care of tanned, tawed, and untanned skins and the presenters discussed storage and cleaning methods. You can access the recording through the link.

Preservation of historic leather, including saddler

Museums & Galleries of New South Wales offers a guide on the methods used to conserve leather objects. The guide includes information on issues that occur under different environmental conditions and how to regularly care for leather objects.

Skin and Skin Products (Leather)

The Minnesota Historical Society shares information about conserving leather (PDF, 8 pages).

Back to top of page

Machinery

Care of Machinery Artifacts Displayed or Stored Outside

The Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) issued Note 15/2 which focuses primarily on preventing sensitive elements of machinery-related artifacts from deteriorating. Preservation efforts concentrate on providing and maintaining minimally protective environments.

Guidelines for the Care of Larger and Working Historic Objects

Association of British Transport & Engineering Museums updated its guidelines in 2018. The guidance offers practical conservation advice to help users know and understand the processes needed for the care of their collections and to make informed decisions that best meet the needs of the object and its users.

Historic Motorized Vehicles

The Henry Ford complied this fact sheet to promote the responsible care of historic motorized vehicles. These steps are based on the assumption that the vehicle will be maintained in a temporarily inoperable state but the functions of the vehicle will be preserved for possible future operation. (PDF, 8 pages)

Safe in the Shed, Caring for Historic Farm Machinery

The New South Wales Heritage Office shares a pamphlet on caring for historic farm machinery (PDF). Written for museums and private collectors, the 20-page document offers practical tips for preserving both the equipment and the stories of its use.

Back to top of page

Metal

Care and Preservation of Historical Brass and Bronze

The Henry Ford has fact sheets on the care of brass and bronze with guidelines for handling, storage, cleaning, polishing, and coating. The fact sheet also includes a list of suppliers. Although written for private individuals, it contains basic technical information that may be useful to smaller museums. (PDF, 11 pages)

Care and Preservation of Historical Iron

The Henry Ford has a fact sheet on the care of iron with guidelines for handling, storage, cleaning, polishing, and coating. The fact sheet also includes a list of suppliers. Although written for private individuals, it contains basic technical information that may be useful to smaller museums. (PDF, 9 pages)

Care and Preservation of Historical Silver

The Henry Ford has a fact sheet on the care of silver with guidelines for handling, storage, cleaning, polishing, and coating. The fact sheet also includes a list of suppliers. Although written for private individuals, it contains basic technical information that may be useful to smaller museums. (PDF, 7 pages)

Cleaning metals: basic guidelines

The Victoria and Albert Museum’s basic guidelines for cleaning metals has information on basics, tools, and general care.

Creating A Microclimate Box for Metal Storage

This Conserve O’ Gram from the National Park Service (NPS) has detailed instructions for creating a microclimate box for metal storage and includes a bibliography of reference books. (PDF, 3 pages)

Metals and Alloys

The Minnesota Historical Society shares information about conserving metals and alloys (PDF, 7 pages).

Metal collections care

Museums Galleries of Scotland webpage on metal collections care covers potential problems, patina protection, causes of corrosion, displaying metals, storing for preservation, it also has a guide to metal types.

Silver Cleaning and Care

Hammond-Harwood House shares this 4-page pdf document covering silver cleaning and care. This document includes a bibliography of useful reference materials, as well as the basics for the care of silver.

Back to top of page

Musical Instruments

American Musical Instrument Society

The American Musical Instrument Society’s website has a lot of useful information and resources for researching and care of historic musical instruments.

Care and Preservation of Musical Instruments

The Bate Collection at the University of Oxford shares a technical webpage directed at personal care of musical instruments but which can be useful for larger collections of musical instruments as well.

Caring for musical instruments: Part 2

Paul S. Storch, former senior objects conservator for the Minnesota Historical Society, wrote this detailed tech talk on musical instruments that breaks down the various component parts and includes a handy chart on page 4 with recommendations for handling, display and storage of various materials that make up musical instruments. (PDF, 4 pages)

Standards in the Museum Curation of Musical Instruments 2005

This 78-page PDF from the Collections Trust (UK) outlines acquisition and disposal, collections management, documentation and protection of primary records, collections care and maintenance (page 20), handling, and includes a section on building and environment standards.

Back to top of page

Paintings

Care of Art on Paper

The Print Council of America shares this helpful webpage with information on the care of art on paper including prints and drawings.

Care and Preservation of Oil Paintings

The Henry Ford has a fact sheet with steps to minimize damage and guidelines for care and handling. Although written for private individuals, it contains basic technical information that may be useful to smaller museums. (PDF, 6 pages)

Caring for Paintings

This Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) guideline includes everything from understanding the structure of different painting types to causes of damage and examples of preventive conservation practices.

Curatorial Care of Easel Paintings

The National Park Service (NPS) museum handbook covers the care of easel paintings in this appendix. The section covers deterioration, storage, exhibiting, shipping, and handling among other topics. (PDF, 22 pages)

Back to top of page

Photographs and Film

Care, Handling and Storage of Motion Picture Film

The Library of Congress offers a fact sheet on the care of motion picture film that covers identification, general care and handling, and guidelines for proper storage. They also touch on the specific requirements of nitrate and cellulose acetate film.

Caring for Cellulose Nitrate Film

The National Park Service (NPS) offers this Conserve O Gram about caring for cellulose film which explains what is nitrate film and discusses the problems with nitrate including a helpful chart that lists the do’s and don’t’s of caring for nitrate film. (PDF, 4 pages)

Cold Storage Handling Guidelines for Photographs

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) provides guidelines for storing and handling photos in cold storage.

Disposal of Cellulose Nitrate Film

The National Park Service (NPS) shares this Conserve O Gram with guidance on properly disposing of cellulose nitrate film with a helpful list of references and websites.

Online Resource Guide for Exhibiting, Collecting and Preserving Media Art

Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) shares their Online Resource Guide for Exhibiting, Collecting & Preserving Media Art addresses key issues and brings together information on current practices and critical dialogue relating to single-channel video, computer-based art and media installation. The Preservation section was created by IMAP (Independent Media Arts Preservation), a nonprofit resource for preserving electronic media. It includes case studies, a glossary of terms, a guide to media formats, best practices, budgets, agreements and technical guidelines. The Guide may be entered via any of the three main sections: Exhibition, Collection and Preservation.

Preservation Leaflets

This set of technical leaflets from the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) focuses on the care and preservation of photographic materials.

Back to top of page

Textiles

Care and Preservation of Antique Textiles and Costumes

The Henry Ford’s fact sheet on the care and preservation of antique textiles and costumes includes steps to minimize damage and guidelines for handling, display, storage, and cleaning. It includes a bibliography. Although written for private individuals, it contains basic technical information that may be useful to smaller museums. (PDF, 10 pages)

Caring for Textiles and Costumes

Part of the Canadian Conservation Institute’s (CCI) preventive conservation guidelines, Caring for Textiles and Costumes includes information on understanding the textiles and how they get damaged and examples of preventive conservation measures.

Connecting to Collections

The Foundation for Advancement in Conservation (FAIC) has a number of recorded webinars on preserving textiles, including Flag Rolling and StorageMounting Garments for DisplayNotes From the Home Front: Care & Handling of Heirloom Textile Collections, and Practical Solutions: Quilt Care and Display. All webinars are presented by experts in the care and handling of historic textiles.

Conserving Textiles

This resource from the Minnesota Historical Society covers basic care and storage, pest concerns, handling, display – including creating mounts and supports, storage, and cleaning. (PDF, 13 pages)

Curatorial Care of Textile Objects

The National Park Service (NPS) has an extensive chapter from its Museum Handbook that covers textile objects. This section includes information on identifying textile materials, deterioration, handling, proper storage techniques, exhibition and display, conservation concerns, and shipping.

Exhibiting Costumes

The Sustaining Places blog explores many aspects of caring for museum collections. This post offers several ways to make mannequins in-house.

Labelling and marking textiles in museum collections

This video from the  Collections Trust (UK) shows how a museum conservator goes about labeling and marking of textiles.

Mold and Mildew

Although directed to personal textile collections, the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education’s page on mold and mildew on textiles discusses the prevention and treatment options available that can also apply to museum collections.

Back to top of page

AAM Member-Only Content

AAM Members get exclusive access to premium digital content including:

  • Featured articles from Museum magazine
  • Access to more than 1,500 resource listings from the Resource Center
  • Tools, reports, and templates for equipping your work in museums
Log In

We're Sorry

Your current membership level does not allow you to access this content.

Upgrade Your Membership

Subscribe to Field Notes!

Packed with stories and insights for museum people, Field Notes is delivered to your inbox every Monday. Once you've completed the form below, confirm your subscription in the email sent to you.

If you are a current AAM member, please sign-up using the email address associated with your account.

Are you a museum professional?

Are you a current AAM member?

Success! Now check your email to confirm your subscription, and please add communications@aam-us.org to your safe sender list.