Looking after our collection
The Conservation department is responsible for the care of Birmingham’s large and important collections that range from art to archaeology and from industry to ethnography.
Like most museums only a small percentage of the collections are on display at any one time as we simply do not have the space to display everything. The conservation team work across the Museums nine sites, with a focus on the Museums Collection Centre where the majority of the collections are housed.
We care for our collections in two ways. Firstly we try to ensure that we store and display them in such a way as to minimise deterioration by controlling factors such as light, humidity and insects, we call this collections care. We also treat objects by cleaning and stabilising them so that they can be enjoyed by our visitors, we call this conservation.
We want to care for our collections so that they can be enjoyed by you today and by the next generations. All objects deteriorate over time so we try to reduce the factors that cause objects to decay. Examples of this type of work are monitoring for insect pests that will eat collections, reduce light to prevent fading and monitoring for pollutants that may cause tarnishing of metals.
If an object is in poor condition, dirty or broken then we need to clean and repair it before the object is displayed to enable visitors to understand and enjoy it. Examples of this type of work are the removal of a discoloured and dirty varnish layer from a painting or sticking an ivory ornament back together that has fallen apart due to the effects of heat and humidity causing it to crack and split.