With over 40,000 items in the Human Sciences’ collections, it is not always possible to practice preventative conservation on each item regularly. Once a year, the staff of the Human Sciences Department (DHS) at the KZN Museum select a specific collection, or type of item, on which to undertake a conservation intervention. In 2019, the firearms collection was chosen for this activity. To assist with this activity, Dr Bernhard Zipfel, Curator of Fossils and Rock Collections at the University of the Witwatersrand, joined the DHS team. Dr Zipfel is one of a few curators in the country who also has a knowledge of firearms.
The firearms collection at the KZN Museum is small but significant and includes some rare pieces, such as a Colt Navy Issue (1847-1850) revolver and a Winchester Model 1866 ‘Yellow Boy’ rifle. Dr Zipfel was joined by Dr Ghilraen Laue, Curator of Special Collections, and Mudzunga Munzhedzi, Collections Manager for this intervention. Mr Munzhedzi, Dr Laue as well as Dr Zipfel have several firearm competency certificates, including black powder certification, which allows them to work on flint-lock and match-lock weapons. Preventative maintenance included barrel and mechanism cleaning, rust removal, as well as stock and barrel oiling. The entire collection was cleaned between November 19 and 22, 2019.