How do we care for our collection? A look behind the scenes

Like any collection, historic house, or gallery, a huge amount of work goes on behind the scenes at the Chitra Collection to minimise the risk posed to the objects from deterioration and pests. 

Risks to historic collections

Moths, silverfish, booklice and vodka beetles have all been found in the collection space and it is vital that we monitor their numbers. These creatures feed, nest and nurture their young on natural and synthetic materials, a variety of which can be found in our objects. Our temperature and humidity control units, air tight cases and rolling racks keep the conditions in the space stable. Alongside this we work to keep the levels of dust down with regular cleaning and have a pest trap procedure to stop them multiplying.

After a two-year gap due to the pandemic, we were able to undertake a deep clean of the space with the assistance of some external museum conservators. Every object was decanted from its place and then the shelves and glass doors were cleaned and polished with museum grade cleaning products. Each item was then carefully returned, all without any knocks or scrapes!

Cleaning our display cases

Museum cases can sometimes have issues with fogging, potentially due to their manufacturing which leaves a misty appearance on the glass. This deep clean helped to get rid of this issue, leaving the cases sparkly clean.

We used deionised water to clean the glass. This is water that has been purified by removing the charged particles. This process also removes chemicals that can be found in ordinary tap water such as chlorine, making it safe to use in proximity to artefacts. Deionised water attracts any minerals and impurities to become charged, meaning it is effective for cleaning, and leaves no traces on glass.

We’ve received comments from visitors since about how clear it is! In these photos from before and after, we think you can really see the difference it makes!

Protecting objects from damage

We also recently commissioned some mounts for a few of the objects on display. A few of them were to support loose handles on kettles and teapots, and another was made to support an open lid of a caddy so that the fragile hinges are not damaged by their weight. Some more exciting ones included a magnifying glass to show intricate details on a satsuma ware bowl, a mirror to show the rear of our James Hadley Royal Worcester Teapot, and another to demonstrate the different components in a Russian airtight tea caddy.

We’ll be keeping the blog updated with our continuing work to preserve the objects in our care.