Museum conservation has changed profoundly in recent years, moving away from the active treatment of specimens and objects to practice what we call preventive conservation. This approach, used by the Peabody Conservation Laboratory,
is based on the premise that damage to and deterioration of collections
can be reduced significantly by controlling their causes.
The main advantage of this approach is obvious: if specimens are not damaged, they do not need to be treated. Treatment generally involves invasive techniques that can alter specimens and is best avoided whenever possible to prevent tampering with the integrity of the specimen or artifact. The preventive approach is particularly appropriate for research collections such as those at the Peabody, because the introduction of treatment materials such a adhesives, consolidants — or even water — could possibly compromise a specimen’s research potential.
Preventive conservation should be applied throughout a museum. While the main concern is with environmental conditions in storage, exhibition and study areas, conservators are also involved with how specimens and artifacts are handled, packed and transported.
Among the routine preventive tasks of the conservator are ensuring that:
The well-being of the collections is our highest priority, as is doing everything possible to ensure they will be available for research, study and education for generations to come.