Museum

Collections Care
Museum collections require a great deal of care. Things are not just bagged & tagged and thrown on a back shelf to collect dust. At least not in this museum! In order to ensure that artifacts will last as long as absolutely possible, a number of precautions must be taken both while on display and in storage.

Like humans, artifacts are healthiest in stable environments. We don’t like to be too hot, or too cold. We especially do not like rapid fluctuations, which often make us sick and uncomfortable. In artifacts, fluctuations can cause cracking, warping, and mold. We keep our collections at a constant temperature and humidity.

Have you ever wondered why museums are so dark? The answer is that light is also an issue for artifacts, especially ultraviolet (UV) light. Think about how the sun affects skin. The U/V in the sun alters the pigment in your skin, making it darker. Luckily, our skin is resilient and goes back to its original color. Artifacts are not so lucky. Light damage is permanent. Neither fading, nor darkening is reversible. Click here to try an experiment on light damage. The museum filters out harmful UV, and keeps lights levels in the exhibit galleries low. Artifacts are kept in a near pitch-black room while in storage.

Artifacts are picky about what types of materials they come in contact with. One of the more damaging things to artifacts, especially metals, is your fingers. The oil on your fingers bonds to surfaces, causing discolorations and corrosion over time. This is why museum workers wear gloves while handling artifacts. Click here to try an experiment at home. The museum uses archival materials such as acid free paper and boxes, polyester film, and special foam sheets for storing and exhibiting items. Objects not on display reside on museum-grade shelving and cabinets in the museum’s secured storage area.

Objects in the museum’s collection are cared for by trained professional staff that adhere to industry standards of best practices, and stay up-to-date with collection care procedures.

Our prime directive in collections care is to do no harm. When that is not possible, we try to minimize the type and amount of damage. All alterations to objects should be reversible. Please see the links below for further information about collections care. We also encourage you to ask us if you or your museum has any questions about collections care. Please contact Dan Brosz, Curator of Collections at Daniel.Brosz@state.sd.us, or (605) 773-6013.