Here are tips from "Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook" on how to properly care for and preserve the treasured objects handed down by parents or grandparents or lovingly collected at tag sales and antiques stores. Create a safe environment for all of your treasures, and ensure they withstand the test and conditions of time.
Photography: Jonny Valiant1 of 7
Create a Stable Environment
Here are tips from "Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook" on how to properly care for and preserve the treasured objects handed down by parents or grandparents or lovingly collected at tag sales and antiques stores.
The best way to protect and preserve your specialty materials is to control the three most damaging elements—light, humidity, and heat.
Light Ultraviolet light is harmful to materials, so keep valuables out of direct sunlight. Use UV-filtering glass on windows and artwork, and regularly rotate displays. Choose incandescent lighting over halogen to minimize fading.
Humidity Because it encourages the growth of mold and mildew, moisture should be controlled in any area where organic materials are displayed or stored. Moisture can also corrode metals. In general, a relative humidity of 45 to 55 percent is best. Use a hygrometer to assess the humidity level, and avoid displaying or storing objects in kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. Use dehumidifiers and desiccants if necessary.
Heat Maintain a temperature of about 72°F; fluctuations will have a bearing on humidity, thus increasing the likelihood of damage. Higher-than-average temperatures can also cause organic materials to deteriorate more rapidly.
Photography: Bryan Gardner2 of 7
Handle Objects with Care
Always pick up heavy objects by the base. Don’t leave fingerprints on metals and soft stones such as alabaster; the oils and acids from skin can cause corrosion. To be safe, wear clean cotton gloves when handling vulnerable materials.
Photography: Johnny Miller3 of 7
Display Objects Sensibly
Hanging objects should be secured with sturdy hardware. Items on display should rest firmly on level surfaces (with felt rounds placed beneath them to protect tabletops, mantles, and other surfaces).
Photography: Ditte Isager4 of 7
Know When to Leave Something Alone
Sometimes patina is what gives an object its charm -- and its value. Antiques dealers and conservators regularly advise owners to forgo rigorous polishing designed to restore a like-new shine. Although there is nothing wrong with making over an everyday flea-market find, you can irreparably damage a fine antique by doing anything more than dusting it and applying a coat of paste wax.
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Store Objects Properly
Wrap large items in clean white cotton sheets. Wrap small items in acid-free tissue paper and use only archival-quality packing materials and boxes (ordinary paper is usually strengthened with lignin, a chemical compound which breaks down over time, releasing acids that can discolor paper and other materials). Similarly, unlined wood shelves, insulation, and carpeting can all release fumes that will cause many materials to deteriorate over time. Line shelves with archival paper, and store objects away from materials that might off-gas. Most important, never store objects in plastic, which can trap moisture, fostering mold growth and corrosion. Finally, label stored belongings for easy identification.
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Photography: WENDELL T. WEBBER6 of 7
Check Stored Objects Annually
Inspect items in long-term storage for cracks, flakes, or crumbling bits, as well as insect infestation or water damage; remedy the situation immediately if you discover a problem.
Photography: Raymond Hom7 of 7
Know When to Call a Professional
Some repairs are do-it-yourself endeavors, while others require a conservator. As a rule, anything you can’t replace or can’t afford to replace is a candidate for professional care. To find conservators, visit the website of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, aic.stanford.edu.