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2 Responses to Cleaning Objects: Before and After

  • Denny Jarred says:

    I always thought tarnish was acceptable for museum and all value deminished on cleaning things such as badges and metal objects

  • Ros Allwood, North Herts Museum Service says:

    Thanks for this. You are right in that museums are always extremely cautious when cleaning items, particularly metal objects. Curators have all seen coins which have been ruined by over-zealous cleaning. This is because people often don’t realise that using wire brushes and household cleaning materials will leave an irreversible pattern of criss-cross lines on the object. Chemical solvents can also damage metal items, and can strip the patina which builds up on copper and bronze items, and should not be removed. However it is often perfectly acceptable for museums to clean modern metal items using conservation cleaning methods and specialist cleaning materials, particularly for objects which will be on display, and like many military items, were originally very shiny. The silver ARP badges are a case in point, as Amanda’s slow and gentle removal of the dark surface tarnish has allowed the detail to be seen far more clearly. A risk assessment is always done first, and the object dusted with a soft brush before any further cleaning is done. The team all wear cotton gloves, to stop the transfer of damaging salts and oils from our fingers. Once the object is clean, we pack it in boxes in acid-free tissue. For silver items this will not completely stop further tarnish (which is a chemical reaction with the air) but will slow it down.

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