Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Conservation Project: Update 1

If you'll remember, I was recently given some family heirlooms in the shape of a trunk and many spoons. I started working on the trunk first, since I figured it will be less work overall than all those spoons.
In my museum classes, we learned that to clean an old object, you should use the mildest methods you can. Water is best, water with mild cleansers are the next best, and after that you'll probably get into some conservation ethics that I'll briefly touch on later. So I started out my cleaning process with some mild eco-friendly dishwashing detergent and a sponge.

The trunk was so grimy, the effects were immediate and dramatic!

After a few minutes of gentle scrubbing, all I'd cleaned was this small area. I decided it was time to move on to something with more grime-removing power.

This is the eco-friendly cleanser I use for everyday cleaning. I pulled out some rags, because I was tired of only being able to scrub such a small surface area at a time. Here's what one of the rags ended up looking like after just minutes of use:

Ew! I cleaned it off once, twice, three times, trying to make it look better than it had origionally. But it turns out that all cleaning off the grime did was make it so that instead of looking grimey because it was grimey:

Now it just looks grimey because you can see the wood of the trunk through the very thin layer of peeling paint:
So at this point I was faced with a dilemma we discussed over and over again in my conservation classes: should taking care of the object mean keeping it in the best condition based on how it was given... or does taking care of it mean I should restore it to its former glory with a paint job?

I really only debated it for a few minutes, because I remember when the trunk looked glorious and I kind of hate how it looks now. So I told my boy (who works at Sherwin Williams) to pick me up some paint.

Stay tuned for my amazing adventures in sanding and painting!

Related posts:
My New Conservation Project
Adventures in Collections Management
Life on the Road as a Traveling Exhibits Registrar [Guest Post]

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Joe Pontillo said...

You know you look like a pirate in that picture, right? You have a treasure chest, something that looks like cross-bones on your shirt, something on your head that looks like a long hat...

May said...

Lol! That's hilarious!

Eric said...

Looks fun. Best of luck.

Helby said...

That's fantastic!
I like to look at the before-and-after pics at Design Sponge

Spyder said...

Cool trunk!

May said...

Helby that's a great link! Thanks!