Why is it important to preserve historical artifacts?


There is a difference between preservation and restoration, each with their own purpose and appropriate times for application.

Restoration involves taking a look back in time to determine how an object would appear in its original time period. Treatment measures are completed to return that object to how it would have originally been created. Depending on the artifact, this could involve a variety of processes like removing layers of paint, adding materials to the object or replacing era-specific parts. 

Preservation involves looking forward and taking measures to keep the object as it is in its current state. This may include treatment to reduce deterioration and protect its present condition, even if there may be small amounts of damage to the object. 

There are many scenarios where preservation is the more appropriate means for treatment. For example when artifacts or objects are salvaged from unforgettable moments in history, the condition of those items is what helps to tell the story.

One notable modern example of this are the artifacts within the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. The permanent collection at the museum contains more than 11,000 artifacts from the day’s events.

In cases like this, it is important to preserve the condition of these objects. ”The protection of the artifacts is so important because we want them to be around a hundred years from now to tell this very important part of American history,” stated Joe Daniels, former President and CEO of the museum, in an interview. For instance, a watch owned by a passenger on Flight 93 is on display at the museum, its face forever frozen, capturing the date and time of the event.  

“Normally, in a different sort of museum, we talk about correcting whatever the problems are. Obviously, in this museum, the condition is a large part of the story of the object, and so our goal in a sense is to preserve the deterioration,” says John Childs, who served as a lead for conservation services at the museum, in an interview

It is important to preserve artifacts from historical events so we can remember, learn about and honor those who were involved.

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B.R. Howard is a leader in conservation treatment, maintenance, and assessment. We have extensive experience with sculptures, military artifacts, art collections, and historic vehicles. We'd be happy to be involved with your next conservation project. Contact us to get started.

FAQHolly Tritt