The Conservation department is responsible for the important task of caring for our diverse collection, which includes archaeological artefacts, social history objects, natural science specimens and fine art, to name but a few. Colchester + Ipswich Museums have two well-equipped conservation labs, one based in Ipswich Museum and another in the Museum Resource Centre, Colchester.
We care for our collections in a variety of ways. Firstly, we try to prevent damage from occurring in the first place through preventive conservation measures. We aim to store and display objects in a way that slows down and minimises deterioration by controlling environmental factors such as light, temperature and humidity, as well as by controlling pests that can eat museum objects. Conservation staff monitor conditions in the stores and galleries and devise improvements to the museum environment. We also test new materials used in displays and stores to ensure that these are not harmful to objects. When objects are stored and displayed correctly they are less likely to require remedial treatment.
When an object in the collection is in poor condition we treat it by cleaning, repairing and stabilising it, enabling visitors to better understand and enjoy it. Before undertaking any treatment we consider what materials an object is made of, how it was made, its condition, its intended use and the causes of deterioration, then we decide what kind of treatment is most suitable.
Other aspects of a Conservator’s role include photography, documentation and scientific analysis of objects. We also work together with colleagues in planning exhibitions and loans so that the preservation of objects is considered at every step of these processes.
Conservation is not only important for the long-term preservation of our objects, it also facilitates the display, research and interpretation of the collection. Our goal is to preserve the collection for future generations and enable it to be used for research and displayed to the public.
In addition to work on our own collections, the Conservation Service also undertakes work for excavation units and for other museums.
Clients have included Colchester Archaeological Trust, Essex County Council Field Archaeology Unit and Braintree Museum.
The service also offers support, advice and training in collections care to smaller museums in the region.
For more information please contact us.