The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 23, 2001


A curator recommends some simple steps for saving old treasures

Restoration and preservation of antiquities has emerged as a chief concern of the Carlisle Historical Society. Almost a third of the group's 160 members attended a presentation by independent curator Valarie Kincade entitled "Caring for Your Decorative Arts Collection" on Wednesday, November 7, at the Gleason Library. The society recently acquired the Captain Samuel Heald Homestead, also known as Coppermine Farm, at 698 Concord Street and the members are interested in maximizing preservation of the town's artifacts currently in storage, as well as their own personal items.

"Store things where the temperature and humidity are stable," said Kincade. Unfortunately, most individuals keep old treasures in the attic or basement, where they are most likely to decay. The curator suggested preserving antiquities only in rooms where you would sleep. She recommended storing items in chemical-free containers and documents in acid-free folders, and advised against using corrugated cardboard and wrapping paper. Unfortunately, despite the best storage methods, some things will still decay and then it's best to seek professional guidance.

"Professionals can repair things, but they can't always make them just like new," Kincade warned. Nonetheless, it is good to seek help because, in some cases, one can halt decay. For example, direct light may prompt the splintering of a wooden statue, so moving the item may provide sufficient protection. Providing an alternate food source for bookworms can save an entire shelf of books when one mysteriously begins to fall apart.

Storing items properly takes time and money. Chemical-free materials are expensive, but purchasing the materials in bulk can save money. Some society members discussed consolidating orders. As far as time goes, Kincade recommends purchasing materials and setting aside one day a year to use up the supplies and then place another order for the following year.

"This is a great activity for family reunions," she said. She suggested bringing out boxes of old photos for sorting and storing in proper materials. Negatives stored in plastic will begin to decay after six years. Replacing the developer's plastic with chemical-free material can extend their life to seventy-five years. Kincade recommended using white gloves when handling negatives, as well as any old items. Under supervision, enthusiastic children can help with the tedious process.

Newspaper may be the most acidic and destructive material of all. Article clippings and materials stored in newspaper will quickly yellow, darken and begin deteriorating. Kincade forbade using newspaper and recommends photocopying news clippings on acid-free paper, then discarding the original.

The decorative arts lecture concluded the Carlisle Historical Society programming for 2001. Other events this year included the June house tour of Windfall Farm and the September visit to Cogswell's Grant in Essex. If you would like information about society membership, check at the Gleason Library for an application or call society president Charles Forsberg at 1-978-369-3577 for more information.

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito