For this post, our Collections Coordinator Michelle Villarreal gives us a peek into what goes on in the storage wings at the Homestead. Enjoy, and don’t let her catch you near an artifact without a pair of gloves on hand!
Believe it or not, the Homestead Museum currently has over 21,000 objects in its collection. It includes a wide range of artifacts, including pamphlets; maps; magazines; textiles such as clothing, tablecloths, and towels; photographs; furniture; and so much more. Most importantly, our artifacts have stories to share, from documents on wine making during the late-nineteenth century to a wedding dress made of silk and satin from the 1920s. It is essential that those tangible pieces of history are cared for to ensure others may enjoy viewing and studying the objects to better understand the past.
Caring for objects, in general, requires patience and an eye for detail. Often, preventive measures help to slow the rate of object’s deterioration. This process includes careful selection of materials used to house objects, such as acid-free boxes, envelopes, tissue papers, folders, and Mylar sleeves (sheets made of polyester resin used to protect and store photographs). Another measure involves where objects are stored. Ideally, a climate-controlled environment is crucial to the object’s longevity, with special consideration given to the levels of relative humidity and temperature. At the Homestead, there are two storage areas that have an HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system, which provides a stable environment. In La Casa Nueva, our 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival home, two second-floor storage rooms house a majority of our artifacts and are where collections staff process, catalog, photograph, house, and conduct minor conservation on artifacts.
Basic conservation procedures done at the Homestead involve vacuuming textiles; rebinding pamphlets to remove rusted staples; cleaning objects with distilled water; freezing textiles to eliminate pests such as carpet beetles; and mending tears on paper. By devoting so much time and effort to properly caring for the museum’s artifacts, the collections staff, in a sense, advocates for inanimate objects that have no voice, yet have so much history to tell.