Caring for Your Objects

Collectibles can include materials that range from porcelain, to wood, to metal, and even petrified fruit.

Your personal collections may also include three-dimensional objects. These collectibles are often comprised of multiple types of materials. Dolls, for example, may have porcelain or plastic heads with soft fabric bodies. Military medals often have a ribbon attachment in addition to metal parts. Musical instruments may include wood, plastics, and metal parts. Old clocks have metal gears, enamel or glass faces, and moving parts. Some collectibles, like baskets, carvings, or specimens, are made of natural organic materials.

When considering preserving your objects, determine which materials pose the most risk and are the most fragile. Focus attention on those elements when creating protective housing, choosing a storage location, or considering display. Secure moving parts and minimize stress on handles, straps, or attachments that may be weaker than the rest of the object. Isolate objects, like modern toys, made from unstable early plastics, so that any volatile compounds they off-gas do not affect other objects. Try not to stack glass or china and use high-quality packing supplies rather than printed newspaper, which can offset inks to objects and will become brittle very quickly.

Small Collectibles

Library supply vendors also offer a wide range of boxes and storage supplies for objects like dolls and coins. It is now possible to purchase in small quantities for personal use.


Use padded hangers for hanging storage of apparel and boxes for fragile textile items. Line the inside of storage boxes and pad the folds of garments and quilts with unbuffered tissue. Take special care when washing items, as detergents and bleaches can weaken the fibers. Textile preservation storage kits are available in small sizes for christening gowns and baby blankets and larger sizes for wedding gowns and uniforms.

Pad sleeves and folds of garments with unbuffered tissue to protect delicate fabric.

A Buyer's Guide for Supply Shopping

When shopping for supplies and materials for housing collections, it is important to carefully read labels and product descriptions. Manufacturers’ claims that products are “archival” may not necessarily reflect any specific preservation standard. Follow the guide below to be sure you know what you are buying to preserve and protect your precious objects.

Safe Handling Tips

Use gloves when handling glass and metal objects to prevent leaving fingerprints, sweat, and oil on surfaces. Wear gloves when touching old animal skins or taxidermized specimens, as these objects were treated in the past with arsenic or pesticides. Polishes and harsh cleansers should be avoided, as they may damage painted or gilt surfaces. Lightly dust objects with soft brushes or untreated cleaning cloths.

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