Across the country, many people that attend my antiques appraisal events are shocked to hear about some of the little known methods used in major museums to preserve and protect precious art and antiques.
While museums make a long-term commitment to preserving and protecting objects in their care to educate the public, most of us are equally committed to keeping our family heirlooms and keepsakes in good condition in order to retain their value.
- Some of the most common ways an object can be harmed include:
- Pests and other insects
- Pollutants (dust, mold, etc.)
- Temperature and humidity fluctuations
- Lights or sunshine
- Oils from the human touch.
For instance, the oils on your hands and the hydrogen sulfide compounds in the air cause silver to tarnish and will leave a permanent mark on your valuable silver pieces. Signs that read “Do not touch” seem extreme but necessary when objects are on display in museums. When it comes to collectibles that we live with on a daily basis, it is a good idea to handle with care and handle only occasionally. So, if you must handle an object, don’t handle it too often. Remember, the oils and small dust particles on your hands can cause permanent damage to your heirlooms and aging treasures.
It is best to store your private collections in an area of your home where it is cool and dry. Attics (too hot with poor ventilation), basements (too damp), foyers (where the front door opens and closes often are bad because temperature changes are frequent), kitchens (too many cooking odors and too much heat), bathrooms and laundry rooms (too much moisture and possible mold) are not the best places for art or antiques. Improper climate conditions can stimulate mold growth and cause objects to mildew, dry out and crack. Never use harsh chemicals or abrasive pads to clean antique objects.
Hanging a framed print in a sunny window, storing objects in acidic cardboard boxes, and over cleaning your antiques can damage your pieces forever.
Sunlight is the first culprit that damages most works of art.
Heat is a close second.
Painted objects, prints and textiles should not be placed in sunny areas of your home as they are sensitive to light and will be damaged in a few short months. There are few options to repair sun damage and fading once it happens. However, you can prevent heat from damaging your antiques. One of the hottest places where you display your collectibles is your china cabinet. The glass doors act like a greenhouse and your objects are baking inside. Be sure to open those doors and let your objects get some good air flow every three months or so.
Spray the rag, not the Renoir
Cleaning a framed work of art, such as a print, seems straightforward. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to clean it. Spray the rag first. Do not spray the cleaner directly onto the glass as the chemical could drip in between the glass and the work of art and damage it.
Beware of Bugs
Insects are monsters, killers. They carry bacteria and the will eat and not stop eating until they have damaged your antique — particularly wooden ones - beyond recognition. You may stop an infestation by wrapping a small wooden object in acid free tissue paper and placing the object in a freezer. The bugs will die off in the cold.
Also, bugs love dark spaces and close quarters. An easy way to protect your antiques from insects is to clean around your objects regularly, don’t eat food near your collectibles, and use insect traps when necessary.
Certain types of art and antiques need special types of care. Be diligent and handle your antiques carefully and you’ll enjoy them for years to come.
Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events nationwide. Dr. Lori is the expert appraiser on the hit TV show, Auction Kings on Discovery channel. Learn more at www.DrLoriV.com, www.Facebook.com/DoctorLori or call (888) 431-1010.