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Current Projects

Current Projects

Agents of Deterioration
The Conservation Department is focused on preventive collections care. The Agents of Deterioration, identified by the Canadian Conservation Institute, serve as a roadmap for preventing damage. Through generous grants from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the Department has developed a website about the Agents of Deterioration at the Science Museum of Minnesota and at home.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
IPM is a program to eliminate pest activity in collections by controlling access and monitoring. The goal is to use nontoxic methods, such as temperature treatments, to reduce physical and chemical damage to collections and danger to staff. In addition to regular pest monitoring of the entire museum, the Conservation Department's IPM program has cut down on the amount of pesticide and the levels of pest activity in the museum and in traveling exhibitions.


Before (left) and after (middle) cleaning of white mold spots on this impala specimen (right) from Warner Nature Center.

Mold Mitigation
In 1992 a mold infestation, which affected over 2000 textile and basket collections, was successfully mitigated. Ongoing research in mitigation is conducted by the Department through environmental control. In 1998 those techniques were successfully applied to a mold infestation of taxidermy at the Warner Nature Center.

Environmental Monitoring
Hygrothermographs, light meters, and dataloggers are used to ensure that environmental conditions such as temperature and relative humidity are within accepted parameters for the long-term preservation of collections.


Conservation and Exhibits staff move the totem pole.

Exhibit Support
The department works closely with other Science Learning Division Staff in developing, installing, and deinstalling exhibits. Conservation staff members consult on environmental standards and appropriate building materials and prepare objects for display or assist in installing and deinstalling. The Department works on all permanent and temporary objects-based exhibits at the museum and helps as needed on all special exhibits. Staff members also consult on the museum's many touring exhibits, including Hunters of the Sky, Raise the Roof: An Exhibit about Buildings, Playing With Time, Robots and Us, and When Crocodiles Ruled.

In 2004, the Department was very involved in preparing and shipping over 100 Native American artifacts for an exhibit at the Basauri Museum in Basauri, Spain. This project was presented in the form of a poster (click here for pdf) at the 2005 annual meeting of the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections.

Material Testing
Analytical examination of materials is conducted to improve understanding of why they deteriorate. In conjunction with Research Associate Helen Alten, the Department has been conducting light fading tests on a variety of materials including feathers, eggs, shells, and moss.


Research Associate Helen Alten demonstrates agents of deterioration in the Visible Lab

Public Programming
The Conservation Department has been involved in presenting the science of conservation to museum visitors through visible labs for many years. Building on this tradition, the new facility has a multi-use visible lab in the Collections Gallery. Volunteers and staff demonstrate a variety of topics and Conservation staff members perform simple treatments and discuss preventative conservation methods in the lab. Thanks to several generous grants from the Institute for Museum and Library Service Conservation Project the lab has been outfitted with top-of-the-line digital video equipment and supports a series of rotating conservation exhibits.

Storage Improvements
The improvement of storage for the collections is an ongoing project. While many long-term storage concerns were addressed during packing for the collections move, not everything could be re-housed at that time. The Conservation Department continues to make improvements based on current research and 25 years of experience.


A83:4:35 Triple-face mask, Guerrero, Mexico, Cordry Collection

Current Treatments
Conservation staff perform ongoing treatments to stabilize and to preserve collections. Recent projects have included: cleaning and stabilizing cuneiform tablets for study and exhibition, repair of Costa Rican Ceramics damaged during shipping, and reconstruction of archaeological ceramics from Red Wing. The mask pictured here is from the Cordry mask collection and is currently slated for treatment.

For more information, email .