Robin P. Croskery Howard, Objects Conservator at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, focused on how custom housing, in concert with climate control, can be effective preventative conservation. Three case studies highlighting specific housing solutions for different collection materials were shown.
Case Study #1: The Long Road Home/Speck Collection
Some housings need to provide safety for travel and long term storage. The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki museum makes it a priority to repatriate any collection items that are not Seminole in origin. These items are returned untreated. The two housings used for this are either stacked layers of Volara cutouts, contoured to fit the object or ethafoam cavities lined with acid-free tissue.
Case Study #2: The Doll with the Broken Neck
The museum has a number of dolls made out of palmetto fibers. These fibers deteriorate over time and the limbs and necks of the dolls often detach. Any treatment would produce only temporary results as the doll continued to age and breakdown. Custom pillows and supports are used to support the dolls and relieve stress on their joints.
Case Study #3: Leaning Baskets
An oversized modern sweetgrass basket that had partially collapsed under its own weight was restored using an adaptive housing. The basket was put in a box with twill ties holding it in place. The ties were gradually tightened over several weeks to support and lift the basket and allow it to gently regain its shape over time. Other modern baskets are stored with ethafoam supports.
These were great, practical solutions for caring for objects by using housing to prevent or control damage. I realized while writing this post how much this session falls in line with Cordelia Rogerson’s “Fit for Purpose” talk. All of the items showcased here were cared for, but in a manner and level appropriate for long view of their “life” at the museum.