Artifact conservation and Preservation

What is an artifact?

An artifact is a man-made object that has cultural or historical significance. What makes an object significant depends on the culture of the society it came from. Artifacts could include anything from 100-year-old baskets to props from the set of a 1950’s TV show. These cultural heritage items help us understand what life was like in a specific time period and what was valued in society. Some artifacts may have dramatically changed the way a community operated (inventions, advancements in technology, etc) or were a large part of daily life (clothing, furniture, etc). In either case, artifacts are worth preserving and conserving to maintain our world’s history.

What does it take to conserve an artifact?

An artifact may need conservation for a variety of reasons. Aged objects may become brittle and easily brake or crack, poor storage may result in deterioration or mold growth, or time may result in grime and dirt build up. An assessment is conducted to determine the object’s condition and determine what materials were used to create the piece. Depending on the needs of the artifact, culturally appropriate and historically accurate materials may need to be specially ordered to complete the treatment properly. At that point, conservators are able to take the necessary steps to clean, repair, and prepare an object for future maintenance.

Who should conserve artifacts?

Artifact conservation should be completed by a trained professional conservator. Because there are so many different types of artifacts, a specialist may be required depending on the needs of the object. For example, a very rare, old paper artifact should most likely be handled by a conservator with ample experience in paper conservation.


Restoration vs. conservation

Restoration is the process of returning an object back to its original condition at the time it was made.

Preservation vs. conservation

Preservation is the process of preventing further damage or deterioration to an object.

What is conservation?

Conservation is the process of stabilizing an object in its current condition without interrupting the integrity of its history through specialized cleaning and correction techniques.

Examples of artifact restoration or conservation