Objects Need Cleaning, Repair, or Restoration
the Museum receives an object that would be an excellent exhibit
if it were only in better condition. This happened in 1976, when
a donor gave the Museum a child's toy wagon made about 1900 A.D.
The wagon was a good example of a child's toy from one hundred years
ago, but the last owners had painted it blue and tan, covering up
the original paint and decoration. The
new paint made it difficult for the curator to answer these questions:
Changes Takes Special Knowledge
was the original color of the wagon?
was it decorated?
anything else about the wagon been changed?
there any wear marks underneath to show how children had used
there a maker's
mark or name on the wagon?
curator wanted to undo the recent changes and return the wagon to
its appearance in 1900 for the exhibit. Conservation requires specialized
knowledge of chemistry and technology. For a curator to conserve
the wagon without damaging it, she or he would need to know:
are the steps in the Conservation?
to take the wagon apart and put it back together correctly
many paint layers and what other materials were on the wagon
kind of paint was used
chemical removers would remove the top paint but not the original
tools would not scratch the wagon
to treat the wagon once the paint was removed
study and train for many years to become knowledgeable of the science
of conservation. With this in mind, the curator took the wagon to
a conservator's laboratory in St. Louis. There the conservator examined
and tested it and gave the curator a report describing the:
needed to conserve the wagon
techniques, and materials necessary to perform these treatments
make this report, the conservator had to find out what was under
the new paint. The conservator cut a tiny sample of the wagon's
paint that included all of the layers down to the wood. Using a
microscope, he looked at the sample in natural light and then in
light. The ultraviolet light helped the conservator determine
what kinds of paint and other materials had been used on the wagon:
paint in resin
dark blue paint
the conservator wanted to remove some of the new paint to see what
was underneath. Because the paint sample indicated that the original
paint was oil-based, the conservator decided to use a water-based
paint remover that would strip away the modern paint but leave the
shining a bright light sideways across the wagon's sides and panels,
the conservator saw the shadows of a fancy decoration, like a decal,
under the paint. So, he carefully removed the paint from a small
spot on one panel. He could now see the stenciled designs clearly.
They had been made with metallic paint in resin (the third layer
he saw in the paint sample).
to think about:
it more important to:
the goal of conservation treatment. One meaning of "conserve" is "keep."
Although it would be nice to be able to remove all of the new blue
paint, it is more important to the curator and conservator to protect
as much of the original paint as they can.
absolutely all the new paint off the wagon
the silver and dark blue original paint as much as possible?
the new paint was removed, the wagon's seat had only a little original
paint left on it. If the conservator usedthe same materials and
techniques on the seat as on the rest of the wagon parts, why was
most of the original paint on the seat missing?
answer this question, think about where the wagon was probaably
kept a long time ago (indoors or outdoors) and how it was used over
conservator had two choices: he could leave the seat alone or repaint
it. Which choice would leave us with the most information about
how children used the wagon?
conservation the wagon looks almost like it did when children played
with it in 1900. It has the original designs and colors. Notice
whether or not the seat is paintedónow you know what the conservator
decided! The restored wagon is now on display in the Museum's At
Home in the Heartland exhibit.