The Kings County Museum in Kentville, Nova Scotia recently received a collection of woven baskets from a donor. These are in various conditions from pristine to poor, some with colouring, and some with elaborate designs. This is an exceptional collection with some currently on display at the museum. They have a place of pride along with our existing baskets which are in a locked case.
I consulted with the Senior Conservator at the Nova Scotia Museum in Halifax to determine what, if any, conservation treatments or considerations apply to collections of this type. Note that the discussion centred around simple things that can be done not full conservation and stabilization treatment. Full conservation treatment implies cleaning both mechanical and chemical, use of adhesives for basic structural repairs, use of chemicals for stabilization, as well as fabricating storage materials for each artifact. I have provided a link at the end of this post to examples of this detailed conservation work. This work is normally beyond the scope and budget of community museums where funding is always a challenge. The following simple considerations apply to any artifacts of this type in a community museum whether in long term storage or put out for display in exhibits:
- always display and store baskets in their normal upright position. That is, never on their side or edge since this will put unnatural strain on their structure.
- leave the cover or tops or any other pieces in their natural position so that they age together rather than separately perhaps at different rates or environmental conditions.
- baskets with colouring will likely fade over time due to natural or artificial light conditions. Reduce light exposure to minimize fading. Cases that are shaded with or without a switch to turn on a light if needed is best. Glass with UV protection for cases is also recommended.
- baskets made of one material only will not be so adversely affected by changes in environmental conditions such as fluctuations in temperature or humidity. However, stable environmental conditions are always best for mixed collections.
- baskets made of more than one material (wood, leather, beads, metal, etc.) require stable environmental conditions. Different materials may expand and contract differently with changes in humidity or temperature which puts strain on their structure.
Conservation of the Langley Centennial Museum's Basket Collection