Conservation housekeeping is a term used in the museum and conservation industry which predominately refers to 'conservation cleaning' (specialist non-invasive cleaning techniques used for the professional care of collections and interiors), but also refers to conservation methods which are concerned with protection and the proper care of objects and interiors.
Good conservation housekeeping (or 'preventative conservation' as it is also known) is considered essential for the protection and preservation of valuable or historic objects and interiors.
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Ordinary domestic cleaning products and methods are unsuitable for historic or delicate objects and interiors as they can cause serious and irreversible damage.
Knowing what NOT to do to an object or interior is just as important as knowing what to do, which is why seeking help from professionals can ultimately save you time, money and heartache. Improper handling and movement of objects can also cause serious damage.
Unfortunately, a lack of cleaning can also damage objects and interiors. A build-up of dust and dirt attracts moisture and insects (such as woodworm - see photo) both of which are very harmful.
For example: dust cementation [i.e. compacted layers of dust that appear dark or gray to the eye] is often present in carvings, grooves and creases and if that surface is left untreated the results are destructive. Museums tackle this problem by employing conservation cleaners to care for their collections and interiors.
Conservation cleaning techniques will naturally vary according to the material being cleaned; however, the uniting principle is that the method should be as non-invasive as possible.
This is in order to preserve the physical and historical integrity of the object.
Conservation cleaners therefore do not use harsh chemicals or cleaning products but rather employ museum approved cleaning techniques to gently remove dust and dirt.