By Ahmadu Zekeri
.The existence of museum in a country depends on its collections which are of inestimable value. The museum has several purposes and functions of which the crucial one is conservation. The major purpose of conservation is to ensure that the collections of the museum are preserved and made available for future generation.
On the other hand, a museum is defined as a non profit making, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, and open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits, for purpose of study, education and enjoyment, material evidence of people and their environment.
Basically, there are two types of conservation; preventive and curative conservation.
In recent times, the emphasis is on preventive conservation because it attempts to prevent decay or damage from occurring. Preventive conservation is a process that seeks to nip in the bud or mitigate the effect of all the factors that, everyday, threaten an object’s continued survival. It requires a holistic attitude which includes a constant evaluation of how objects are stored,treated,handled, displayed and maintained.
Preventive conservation is to keep objects/collections or monuments safe from harm or maintain them etc. so as to prevent their destruction. Preventive conservation is a strategic enterprise driven by a museum’s primary purpose that cannot be introduced without planning.
This type of conservation includes integrated pest and climatic control around the objects, storage facilities and buildings. It also includes regular museum maintenance and identification of the agents of deterioration. It is also described as being the application of common sense measures.
This type of conservation has varieties of names. It is also known as remedial, active and intervention conservation. Here, the damage of object has already occurred, before conservation work is introduced. That is why it is also regarded as intervention conservation. Curative conservation is expensive to carry out. It is only used when the existence of the collection or object is threatened by damage or total lost.
Responsibility of a conservator: The activity/responsibility of a conservator consist of-Technical examination, Preservation and Conservation/Restoration of cultural property Conservation Management: This refers to the art or skill employed to achieve expected results and meet required objectives through the efforts of the conservator.
It is the duty of the conservators responsible for the management of the collections to be aware that maintenance of information is very essential for understanding and use of the collections. An established procedure for regular assessment of the conditions of the collections and their maintenance must be put in place. Good storage space and well equipped laboratory to prevent damages should also be provided.
The collections should be accessible and the physical care must be of professional standards. Every treatment is an intervention. Minimal treatment is preferred; this leaves an object closer to its original appearance, presents a lesser risk and affords the opportunity to await a better treatment technology. The purposes for treatment of objects are to stabilise for storage; to clean for exhibition; to repair after infestation; and to reverse previous treatment.
Before, during and after treatment, detailed description of the condition of the object is recorded using the condition and treatment report format, documentation of the treatment of object is also recorded.
Developing conservation capabilities and efficiency requires improved skills in conservation practice. It is an anticipated behaviour for museums to create a preventive conservation strategy policy plan which provides guidelines for conservation practice and techniques. Proper training of staff will make them appreciate the need for good conservation practice thereby reducing damage of objects.
Finally, the conservators should remember that basic practical improvements such as using padded trays, for carrying objects, separating overcrowded objects in storage, isolating infested objects, good management and control of pest infestation and proper monitoring of environmental factors like temperature, relative humidity, light, etc, are easily implemented short-term measures for conservation in the museum.
Zakeri writes from National Museum, Akure