Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Saturday Solutions Book Review: Saving Stuff by Don Williams and Louisa Jaggar

Whether you're a creator or collector of fine art, whether you like to buy your furniture new or pre-owned, you've probably wondered if your treasured items will last. And if you've seen Life After People or read The World Without Us, then you have an idea of how insects, fungus, water, and sunlight can lead to the decay and destruction of many masterpieces. If this is a concern for you, then pick up a copy of Saving Stuff.  Written by a Smithsonian conservator, it is a comprehensive guide to the proper care and storage of everything from paintings and drawings to fine furniture.  Saving Stuff is based on the premise that you, the collector are the director of "The Museum of You" and provides all the tools to properly archive your holdings.

If your collectibles need to be cleaned, there are recipes for cleaning solutions for everything from plastic toys to bronze sculptures.  The section on light damage took me back to my lighting classes in design school (the only other place i've ever seen the word "foot-candle" in a sentence) as it explained how you have to pay attention to how much light your collectibles are exposed to.
In addition to the other valuable information in Saving Stuff, there is a useful Risk Chart for Collectibles, wich breaks down the potential for damage that light, insects, mold, contaminants, temperature, moisture, and everyday use can cause to common collectibles.   Another useful tool is a worksheet that can help you decide which items to keep and why you want to save them.  There is another worksheet that helps you keep track of everything you know about the items in your collection, helping you to fulfill your duty as the registrar of the Museum of You.

As an artist, it was also beneficial to me as I looked at my process from a collector's point of view. It made me ask myself if I am creating work that can withstand the ravages of time, and made me aware of environmental conditions that could endanger the longevity of my artwork. I learned about the best way to hang framed artwork.  I also found the Rules for Lighting Paintings especially useful. I now realize the importance of getting Raspberry Divine and her sisters out of the sunlit room I display them in at home and into a cool dark place.

And as a designer, I find the book  a wonderful source of information that could be passed on to clients to ensure the furniture and finishes I specify can look their best for as long as possible. And it gives me a new appreciation for the functionality of window treatments,the first defense against damage from the UV rays in sunlight.

The overarching message of the book seems to be that if your collection means something to you, then don't store it in your basement or your attic.  Be mindful of the environment in which you store and display your items, and they will last longer.  No matter what you collect, if you are a collector you need this book.

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