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PACKAGING OF MUSEUM OBJECTS: CRITERIA AND TEST METHODS FOR PLASTIC FILM SELECTION

Keywords: Packaging , plastic films , mechanical properties , permeation

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In German-speaking countries more than 90% of museumobjects are stored in special depot areas. Many museumsdo not have the required space or funds to be able to usepurpose-built depots with optimal conservation conditions.In the context of a cooperation of KunsthistorischesMuseum Wien (KHM), Essl Museum (Klosterneuburg,Austria), Wien Museum (Modesammlung Hetzendorf / fashioncollection), the Department for Conservation andRestoration of the University of Applied Arts Vienna, twoproducers of plastic films and the Austrian ResearchInstitute for Chemistry and Technology (ofi) a researchproject was carried out which aimed at generating standardpackaging solutions for museums and art collections,which can be adapted to meet a wide range of requirements.The packaging should provide an optimized storageof the objects by stabilizing relative humidity as well asensuring protection against aggressive pollutants. A furthermotivation for the use of the packaging of objects inplastic films was the prevention of infestation by microorganismsand pests in the depot areas.Practical packing tests were performed in which a greatvariety of objects – from small metal jewellery to entire carriagesas well as large numbers of similar objects – werecovered in different plastic films (PE [polyethylene] films,PE-EVOH [polyethylene-ethyl vinyl alcohol] films) and SiOx[silicon oxide]-coated films for various reasons. This longtermproject also included fundamental studies on thebehaviour of packed modern organic materials (e.g. rubber)as well as tests of the permeability to different air pollutantsof the individual types of film.It was shown that all films chosen, i.e. PE, PE- EVOH and ceramic-coated films, fulfil the cor responding requirements: the objects packed in plastic were sufficiently protected against dust, insect attacks, and harmful substances from outside. In the large film tunnels the residual oxygen concentration could be reduced to below 0.5% and a stabilization of relative humidity as well as good non-permeability of the packaging material could be achieved. The method of nitrogen-flushingto eliminate insect-pests could successfully be applied also to big and large numbers of objects. It turned out to be a cost-savingmethod of preser ving museum objects, as it permits pest control directly at the museum or collection, without need for specialized equipment.

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