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Preventive conservation and restoration

In 2009 the Museum established a preventive conservation and restoration laboratory (PCRL) which currently has two headquarters, one in the Laboratori de Natura (Nature Laboratory, Castell dels Tres Dragons) and the other in the Museu Blau. The purpose of this laboratory is to ensure the short-, medium- and long-term preservation of the Museum collections. Preventive conservation consists of ongoing, comprehensive maintenance procedures for safeguarding the collections –whether on display, in storage or on loan– in order to prevent their deterioration and delay their natural ageing process. Restoration, also called curative conservation, refers to the practice of mitigating any damage or alteration in the items, which adversely affects their integrity and/or prevents, hinders or modifies their observation.

The PCRL conservation-restoration experts perform cleaning, consolidation and reintegration treatments on deteriorated specimens to make them suitable for exhibition, handling or study, respecting their original value (historical, scientific, aesthetic, etc.) at all times.

Ascertaining exactly how and why the objects in the collections deteriorate is another of the challenges and objectives of the PCRL. The findings of this research are extremely useful when it comes to developing new procedures, preventing future degradation and treating long-lasting damage.

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Museum staff

External staff

  • Marta Pérez Azcárate, conservation/restoration specialist , Itinerart
  • Olga Muñoz Blasco, conservation/restoration specialist , Itinerart

The primary aim of the PCRL is to create a stable environment for the collection items and minimise any risks likely to trigger or accelerate their deterioration. The Museum’s preventive conservation experts address the following factors:

  • Control of the environment (humidity, temperature, lighting and pollution)
  • Prevention of pest infestation
  • Handling of specimens
  • Suitability of display and storage facilities
  • Seeing to, and/or supervising, the packaging and transport of items on loan

Careful follow-up of the above factors largely avoids the need for direct intervention on specific items that have suffered some damage.

Statistical analysis of the environment follow-up data is performed periodically to facilitate decision-making regarding any improvements to be made.

Items on permanent display in the Museum, or in temporary exhibitions, are subject to meticulous follow-up in order to ensure they are appropriately conserved inside the cabinets and lose none of their aesthetic qualities.

From 2011 to 2014 the Gabinet Salvador collection underwent a thorough review. All items were subject to some form of intervention involving improvements in their packaging and presentation and different levels of restoration treatments.

Other projects undertaken at the PCRL are the study of the effect of vibrations on the items displayed, the effect of the packaging insulation on the environmental conditions, the review of the conservation and labelling systems of specimens in preserving liquid, and the systematic follow-up of certain infestations of insects.

Publications:

  • Garcia-Franquesa, E., 2009. Biodiversity in storerooms. Paleontologia i Evolució. Memòria especial nº4 (2009): 89-100.

  • Val, S., Garcia, E., Pérez, M., Valls, M., Cancelo, C., Guerrero, N. & López, D., 2012. Restauració d’una Balaenoptera physalus. La balena emblemàtica del Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona. UNICUM Paleontologia.

  • Pérez, M., Muñoz, O., Hervás, N., Ibáñez, N., Aurell-Garrido, J. & Garcia-Franquesa, E., 2015. El Gabinete de Historia Natural Salvador: intervenciones de conservación preventiva y curativa e inventario preliminar. Bol. R. Soc. Esp. Hist. Nat. Secc. Aula, Museos y Colecciones, 2: 87-99.

  • Vila, M., Pérez, M., Muñoz, O., & Garcia-Franquesa, E., 2014. Two examples of preventive conservation practice in the Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona (MCNB):  inspection of specimens and substitution of  packaging. Journal of Palentological techniques, 13: 65-69.

     

The laboratory serves all the Museum collections, which amount to over three million items. The conservation/restoration specialists resolve any conservation queries or issues detected by the curators.

The laboratory also handles queries from other museums or public entities that hold natural history heritage items or objects containing organic matter of animal or vegetable origin. It also provides information on the packaging, transport and storage of natural history collections, and on the materials and instruments used in conservation and restoration.

The laboratory takes in students enrolled on official courses in conservation and restoration, as imparted at the ESCRBCC (College for the Conservation and Restoration of the Cultural Heritage of Catalonia) and the Department of Fine Arts at Barcelona University. The laboratory conservation/restoration specialists also offer guided visits for schools and faculties, by appointment, when the subject concerns the conservation and restoration of cultural heritage.