Adjective: Designed to keep something undesirable such as illness, harm, or accidents from occurring.
Preventive conservation, as the name suggests, aims to prevent potential risks to cultural materials. Types of potential risk include:
- extreme environmental conditions, like high temperature or relative humidity
- damage from moving objects, like accidentally dropping an object
- damage from handling objects, including leaving sweat, oils, and dirt from your hands on the surface of an object
- damage from insects and other pests, like mice or carpet beetles
natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, and other emergencies like fire and floods
Conservators employ a variety of strategies to deal with these risks. Temperature and humidity can be monitored and controlled, for example, just like you control heating and cooling in your home. Light levels can also be monitored and adjusted. Conservators assist in creating safe environments for display and storage – like supports and padding for fragile objects. Conservators and other museum professionals also wear gloves when handling artifacts. Insects are usually managed and controlled through a comprehensive plan. The Kelsey’s Integrated Pest Management plan, for example, prohibits food in the galleries and collection storage areas. Natural disasters are harder to plan for and cope with, but Museums and other collecting institutions prepare as best they can with emergency-response and collections-salvage plans.