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Home > Curator's Corner > September 2016 > Fun with Invigorating Fragrances (and Other Condition Issues)
Fun with Invigorating Fragrances (and Other Condition Issues)
Intrepid Teens Blog
Posted: 9/15/2016 11:56:55 AM

By Becky Bacheller

When people ask me what I do as a collections assistant, I tell them I care for all the stuff! I work to preserve objects for as long as possible for future generations. Preservation means keeping an artifact in stable condition—different from conservation, which involves a conservator treating an artifact to repair it and bring it to a stable condition.

Many of the objects in our collection weren’t meant to last forever and weren’t donated to the Museum in perfect condition. Sometimes artifacts can even react with one another, causing damage. Below are three examples of this type of problem and what we did to fix it. While we may not be able to fix all the issues without conservation treatment, the objects can be stored in ways to ensure no further damage occurs.

Concorde Toiletry Kit

Collection of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Gift of Rosalyn Ollivierra and Jamarlon Ollivierra. 2015.07.19a-w

Condition Issue No. 1: Concorde passengers received toiletry kits on their flights so that they could feel refreshed upon arrival at their destination. This particular item was donated to the Museum by former British Airways employee Ros Ollivierra, who made all arrangements for VIPs flying on Concorde—including royalty. While cataloging the luxury toiletry travel bag, we discovered that a small perfume bottle called Eau Dynamisante, or Invigorating Fragrance, had leaked. The perfume reacted with the clear plastic storage case. This formerly harmless fragrance had become a preservation hazard because of the decomposition of materials. The plastic case was distorted and discolored where the perfume had come in contact with the bag.

Preservation Solution: Empty the perfume bottle, gently rinse and dry the bottle and bag, and then store them separately in archival plastic bags. By removing the perfume, we will be able to keep both items in good condition for many years to come.

Intrepid Stationery

Collection of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Gift of Thomas Wargo, FCM 1961–63, SH/SN. 2015.22.25a-e

Condition Issue No. 2: These envelopes, part of a stationery box, were donated by Thomas Wargo, who served on Intrepid in the early 1960s. Over time, the glue used in the envelope and on the flap became discolored. You can see it bleeding through the paper on the front and back of the envelope. The glue is part of the envelope, so we couldn’t remove it without destroying the entire envelope.

Preservation Solution: Keep all the layers as separate as possible and store the object in a stable environment with controlled temperatures and humidity (such as our state-of-the-art collections storage space). The controlled environment will help slow the deterioration of the glue and extend the overall life of the object. I cut pieces of archival Mylar plastic and inserted them inside the envelope and under the flap, and I stored each envelope in its own archival Mylar sleeve so that the glue touches as few other surfaces as possible.

Vinyl Cardholder

Collection of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Gift of Samuel K. Taylor, USS Intrepid V-6 1965–1967. 2015.36a-x

Condition Issue No. 3: This vinyl cardholder and Hong Kong postcard booklet were originally part of a scrapbook donated by Samuel K. Taylor. Taylor served aboard Intrepid during the ship’s Vietnam War deployments in 1966 and 1967. From the losses on the postcards and the residue on the cardholder, we could tell that they were once stored together and were then pulled apart. As plastic breaks down, it can become sticky, which is probably why the objects stuck together. The objects were donated to the Museum in this condition, and only a conservator would be able to fix them.

Preservation Solution: Store them separately from each other and from other objects in a controlled environment to prevent further breakdown of the plastic cardholder.