Katia Johansen
Royal Danish Collections

Preventive Conservation: definition:

The National Gallery of Australia describes preventive conservation as follows:

  • It aims to minimise deterioration and damage to works of art, therefore avoiding the need for invasive conservation treatment and ensuring works of art are protected for now and the future. Preventive conservation methods are based on the concept that deterioration and damage to works of art can be substantially reduced by controlling some of the major causes of this in the gallery environment.
  • Preventive conservation at the NGA aims to preserve all works of art by controlling the environment in which they are displayed, stored and transported. It includes maintaining stable temperature and relative humidity levels, managing light exposure, controlling pests, disaster preparedness and protecting works of art from other physical or chemical damage.
  • Objects, paintings, textiles and paper conservators apply preventive conservation principles in their work in the lab, on display, during transport and in the storage of works of art. Before considering invasive treatment, conservators consider whether preventive conservation options are more appropriate.
  • The discipline of preventive conservation is a relatively new field compared to the more traditional paintings, paper and objects conservation. Preventive conservation is one of the most interdisciplinary specialisations as it refers to knowledge from materials science, building science, chemistry, physics, biology, engineering, systems science and management, as well as a host of technical fields.
  • see more on http://nga.gov.au/conservation/prevention/


Elements of preventive conservation

  • Good storage conditions, trained personnel and good housekeeping are important elements in protecting museum objects
  • Environmental monitoring to ensure appropriate conditions – temperature, relative humidity, air quality, and light
  • Integrated pest management to protect works of art from damage
  • Implementing handling and maintenance procedures for storage, exhibition, packing, and transport of works of art
  • Disaster preparedness for the collection
  • Collection protection for special events and activities
  • Assessing loan venues and assisting regional galleries with preventive conservation
  • Encouraging participation and teamwork from the entire staff to achieve preventive conservation goals
  • Preventive conservation aims to protect museum collections from damage and unnecessary deterioration
  • Disaster planning and thoughtful museum administration enable early detection of damage, problems, or their side effects which threaten the preservation of museum objects.


Resources regarding costume and accessories

See outline of course on preventive conservation: at http://whc.unesco.org/uploads/activities/documents/activity-124-1.pdf

See getty.edu/conservation/publications/newsletters/19_1/feature.html Effective Preservation from Reaction to Prediction Robert Waller and Stefan Michalski Getty Newsletter 19.1 Spring 2004 – provides a detailed account of breadth and depth of a preventive conservator’s work.

Current Preventive Conservation Approach: the PRECOMOS UNESCO Chair’s perspective (EN), presentation at Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA

http://www.icon.org.uk/images/stories/costume.pdf and http://www.icon.org.uk/images/stories/fashion_accessories.pdf

La conservation préventive: une méthodologie d’approche basée sur le monitoring (FR), presentation at l´Université de Liège, Liège, Belgium

Nobuko Kajitani: Care of Fabrics in the Museum (1977) in Changing Views of Textile Conservation, ed. Mary M. Brooks and Dinah D. Eastop, Getty Institute, 2011

Karen Finch and Greta Putnam: Caring for Textiles, London 1977

Jentina E. Leene: Textile Conservation. London, 1972.

Mary M. Brooks and Dinah D. Eastop, ed.: Changing Views of Textile Conservation, Getty Conservation Institute, 2011

https://fril.osu.edu/: reference collection of fiber images

Australian Dress Register

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