An Introduction to Caring for Your Collections

Caring for Your Antique Collection

Caring for Your Antique CollectionYou’ve taken the time and expense to create your collection. To ensure that it holds its value, it’s important to care and protect it. By practicing certain basic conservation practices, you can make sure your house is a safe environment for your collection.

Maintaining a consistent temperature of around 70 degrees during both the winter and summer months is most important, especially with furniture and items made of wood. Veneered furniture is particularly vulnerable to dampness.

Try not to place objects near vents where they may be in the direct path of hot or cold air. Also, keep items out of the path of direct sunlight, particularly paintings, works on paper, textiles, and furniture. Lastly, reduce the amount of exposure to natural light by partly lowering shades, drawing curtains, or closing blinds.

Storing Your Collection

Sometimes a collection becomes so large that items need to be stored. Always select a dry, clean space in which the temperature remains fairly consistent. If possible, avoid storing objects in attics, basements, and garages. Plastic storage bins are excellent for smaller objects like cameras and provide a watertight and airtight seal.

When storing objects that must be wrapped or placed in boxes, be sure to use acid-free materials. Paper and cardboard products are made with acids that hasten the deterioration of objects that come into contact with them. For this reason, it’s best to avoid either wrapping objects in newspaper and normal tissue paper or placing them in old cartons. A number of companies make acid-free tissue paper and boxes for the safe storage of artwork and smaller antiques that can be easily wrapped and boxed.

Caring for Your Antique CollectionFragile objects made of glass, pottery or porcelain should never be stacked on top of each other inside a box. Attempt to arrange everything in the box in one layer. Under-the-bed plastic storage bins are best.

If at all possible, store objects on open shelves instead of crowding them into a box. When objects are evenly spaced on shelves, the potential for damage is greatly reduced.

Tablewares such as plates, bowls, and cups & saucers are frequently stacked in boxes or on shelves. When the pieces rub against each other, surface decoration can easily be removed in the process. To avoid this problem, place acid-free tissue paper under each piece in the stack. The tissue paper provides a buffer between objects that come into contact with each other. Also, make certain that the stacks don’t reach teetering heights! Otherwise, everything can come tumbling down.

You should never stack or jam furniture into a tight space in which the pieces bang against each other. Otherwise, you risk scratching, gauging, or splitin g it. Arrange all furniture directly on the floor with space between each piece.

Cleaning Your Collection

Caring for Your Antique CollectionUse a dry paintbrush with soft bristles to dust porcelain, pottery, and glass objects. A cloth may snag on small details and cause breakage. For tight areas or small details use pressurized air.

When cleaning silver and silverplate, try to avoid using creams and polishes that must be rubbed onto the object to avoid scratching. Instead, use a solution into which the object can be dipped to remove tarnish and dirt. This approach is particularly advisable for silver with gilding or silverplate. Constant rubbing with a cream or polish will eventually cause the gilding or silver plating to wear away.

Never clean antique furniture with a damp cloth. This can result in the removal of the surface finish and cause the wood to expand and then contract. Always use a soft, dry cloth or a paintbrush with soft bristles.

Gilding on furniture should never be polished, as this will result in the removal of the gilding. Simply leave the gilding in the condition in which it was found.

Making Repairs & Restorations

You should always consult with a professional on the repair or conservation of an antique that’s severely damaged or in poor condition. The professional will know exactly what measures to take. A home repair could result in even greater damage and will lower the value of a fine antique.

Article By Bob Brooke

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