Adopt An Object; the Importance of Conservation

Written by: Alexandra McKeever, DAR Museum and Office of Development Administrative Assistant
May 15, 2017

One of a museum’s most important duties is caring for the objects in its collection. This involves ensuring they are stored in a safe environment, and are conserved if and when they need it. Museums are responsible for holding their collections in public trust for future generations.

The primary goal of conservation is to stabilize an object to prevent it from deteriorating further.  This allows future scholars to conduct research on the object. It also allows the museum to exhibit objects that would have otherwise been too fragile. Every day our curators and other museum staff are working with or handling the items in our collection. Once the curator identifies objects needing conservation, the conservator examines the objects in order to give an estimate of the conservation costs. The DAR Museum uses only conservators accredited by the American Institute for Conservation. Items need to be carefully cleaned, then repaired, and finally stabilized. Conservation is a key part of preserving our history for the next generation, an important part of the DAR mission.

The Polly Jacobs Sampler, recently conserved, is an example of an object preserved through conservation. The sampler had become yellowed and some of the dye had bled from the embroidery thread onto the linen. There was also a brown blemish on the surface of the sampler (see left image -  before photo). The first step in the conservation process was to test the dyes to make sure they were colorfast and wouldn’t bleed during the washing process. Next, once the dye type was established, the sampler was carefully wet cleaned in a non-ionic detergent, blocked and pressed to flatten it and make it rectangular again (fabric often shifts over time). Then the conservator prepared a storage mat with non-acidic materials. This stabilized the sampler, allowing it to be safely stored long term.

Conservation can cost up to $150 an hour, depending on the object in question and can take anywhere from a few hours to several days. The more urgently an object needs conservation, usually due to damage or deterioration, the higher the cost of that conservation. The conservation of the DAR Museum collections is made possible by donations to the Adopt-an-Object Fund. Members can either donate to the fund an amount that is appropriate for them, or adopt a specific item directly from the Wish List.

  • Donations to the Adopt-an-Object Fund are extremely helpful as they allow the museum to fund items as needs arise. This fund provides immediate support for projects of all sizes. A donation of $100 or more qualifies the donor for the Adopt-an-Object pin.
  • Adopting an item directly from the Wish List funds the full conservation of an item. Chapters who wish to adopt an object but lack the funds to do so can partner with other chapters, pooling their resources to adopt the object in full.

Any and all donations to Adopt-an-Object help preserve the DAR Museum’s collections for future audiences and scholarship.

For more information on how you can adopt an objector donate to the fund please contact the Office of Development at 1-800-449-1776.

View the Wish List here:

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