How to Conserve and Restore Artifacts


Anyone who collects military artifacts knows all too well that these items can come in a variety of forms. They can be made of ceramics or glass, wood, leather, metal, paper, textiles or fibre, etc., or any combination thereof. Depending on their nature, provenance and age, they are of differing degrees of fragility and have to be treated differently and hopefully, properly.

It is also safe to say that all materials will show some sort of deterioration over time, which can be exacerbated by how they are handled, displayed or stored. To ensure the physical integrity of a collection is maintained, and that deterioration is minimized, requires specific knowledge. It is this editor's experience, both personally and through third party observation, that many military collectors, usually through no fault of their own, do not have a great deal of appropriate conservation knowledge of their collections. It is true that with experience comes insight, but this all too often is a result of hindsight. In other words, many an individual collector learns these insights through causing or experiencing damage, accelerated deterioration or destruction of one or more of their collected items.

Without some specific proper knowledge, many collectors will: 1) do what appears logical to them, 2) follow hearsay advice from other collectors, and/or 3) apply “homespun” or "traditional" methods to their collections. In the latter case, especially, these methods may appear to work to some degree in the present but can often do more damage than good over the long run.

In an effort to provide a single source of reputable information on conservation methods for various types of artifacts (which includes those of a military origin), a revolving series of short articles will be attached. These articles come from several well-known and reputable sources, including in particular the Canadian Conservation Institute [CCI] which is highly respected world-wide. As such, we give full acknowledgement and credit to these sources and in no way wish to give the impression that the material in any way comes from members of the Calgary Military Historical Society.

General Precautions for Storage Areas [CCI Notes 1/1]

Basic Care of Coins, Medals and Medallic Art [CCI Notes 9/4]

Storage of Metals[CCI Notes 9/2]