Annual Intervention into the Human Sciences Collections
For the 2020 intervention into the Human Sciences (DHS) Collections, a specialist object conservator—Juanita Petronio—facilitated a focused workshop on the conservation of skinwork. Animal skins have been long-used for making all sorts of things like garments, shoes and bags. Objects made from skin stay soft and supple while they are in use but in a museum collection they dry out, harden and become rigid over time. They are also prone to other damage caused by bad handling, pollutants, mould and insects.
Several damaged objects in the collections were selected and were dry-cleaned and treated for mould. DHS staff—including Dr Wintjes, Dr Laue, Mr Munzhedzi, Ms Tloaele, and Mr Madonda—created props made out of cotton to place inside or alongside the objects, to help them maintain the shape they had while in use. Bespoke archival boxes were made for each item to reduce damage from handling. This is the second annual intervention in the DHS Collections. In 2019, Dr Bernhard Zipfel led an intervention into the firearms collection. In 2021, DHS is looking to expand the number of interventions and to open the workshop-based approach to personnel from other museums. The ability to conduct rudimentary conservation or preventative conservation on objects is a dire skill shortage in the country and the KwaZulu-Natal Museum is trying to address this lack of capacity in curating the nation’s heritage assets.
Staff from the Human Sciences department hard at work in the Object Studio.