Frequently Asked Questions About Our Practice

By this point you have already viewed our website and identified our practice as being able to assist you with your preservation needs. If you haven’t contacted us, please do! We would love to hear about how we can help you find a solution with your project. If we have already provided a statement of work and estimate, here are some responses to frequently asked questions that you may have!


  • What is the statement of work and estimate?

The statement of work provides an overview of the proposed project and details how the project will be conducted or how the object will be treated. More specific information may not be available because the object or collection has not been viewed yet or we may need to investigate certain features before we can propose the next step. For example, we may need to open an object under controlled conditions in our studio before we can comment on the condition and treatment or we may need to do a site visit; therefore, a general statement is included in the proposal until more specific details can be provided.

The estimate provided is a fixed fee that covers the work detailed in the proposal.

If you have any questions about what is provided in the statement of work or estimate, please don’t hesitate to ask. We are happy to discuss any component of the work and to work within your budget. On rare occasion, a speciality product is needed or the treatment is expanded outside the original scope of work. This will be provided in writing with a revised estimate of costs and will be approved by the client before those costs are incurred.


  • What advantage is there to using a restorer or conservator for a heritage preservation project?

Conservation is a discipline within cultural heritage that focuses on preserving the past for the future. Professional conservators undergo specialty training in the arts and sciences to better understand the material composition and artist’s intent of historic objects and artworks. A thorough understanding of the material prevents any negative interactions that could occur with a treatment. Additionally, the use of specialty archival products ensures that the treatment will have endurance and will be reversible in the event the object needs retreatment. To ensure professional practices are followed, you should look for a conservator that is a member of a professional society that has a set code of ethics. In our practice, we only work with conservators that are recognized by the American Institute for Conservation or the New Zealand Conservators of Cultural Materials. In conclusion, you are ensuring that the individual performing any treatment has a professional level of knowledge and that the materials used are appropriate for the object. Mistakes can be irreversible and more costly to fix in the future.


  • Is there a difference between restoration, conservation, and preservation?

Restoration is a process that implies that a historic object or artwork will be brought back to the original appearance or function. An example of this would be to restore an antique car to working condition by replacing all of the non-working components and repainting the original colour.

Conservation is an interventive process used to stabilize an object.  Generally only the deteriorated areas or unstable components are treated to minimize any further damage.  The term for this in the profession is “minimal intervention” where the main goal is to perform the minimum treatment necessary to ensure the object is preserved.

Preservation describes an overall approach to managing the long-term curation of an object or collection. This includes preventative measures that modify the environment around the object rather than the object itself.

The term conservator and restorer are both used in different countries to describe the same role. This is not to be confused with a conservationist that is a professional that focuses on the preservation of natural resources.

The treatment plan should outline the details of the proposed work, but our consultants are always happy to talk with you further about the extent of work your object or collection may need.


  • Is there a charge for the statement of work and estimate?

If you are within an 80km distance of Hawera, Taranaki, there is no charge to have us view your collection, object, or discuss your project. Exceptions to this include if there are any costs necessary for supplies or specialty equipment in order to complete the statement of work and estimate.  This will include a maximum of one-hour on site and a succinct statement of work. More detailed proposals can be provided for $75 per proposal.

For clients with individual objects or artworks outside of the 80km radius, you are welcome to provide images or to bring the item to our studio. For projects that will require on site consultation outside of the 80km radius, travel costs and a proposal fee may be invoiced.


  • The treatment proposal or preservation plan looks great, what happens next?

Great! We look forward to working with you! The next step is that we will send a short agreement for you to review. This outlines:

·      that the conservator will perform any services in accordance with a code of ethics,

·      that you are the legal owner or representative of the object or collection,

·      a description of the object and the current condition before receipt,

·      the treatment being proposed,

·      the documentation that is agreed to be provided,

·      the time to completion,

·      the cost and payment schedule,

·      insurance details (if any),

·      and a discussion of early terminations to the contract.

This protects both parties to ensure the work is clearly understood. If you agree to the information, all you will need to do is sign a copy, scan, and email the file back to us.


  • When is payment expected?

This depends on the type of project and the costs that are expected to be incurred at the outset. For example, if travel costs, accommodation and supplies will be needed ahead of time or if the project is expected to take several months, the payment schedule may request half of the estimate before the work commences.


  • How can I provide payment?

We accept payment by cash, check, bank transfer or PayPal for Visa and Mastercard. More details will be provided on the invoice.


  • Are you GST registered in New Zealand?

Yes. This will be noted on the estimate. 

When Does Conservation Begin?

Conservators can have a variety of roles on an archaeological site. In some cases, I act as a registrar and a conservator, in others these are two separate roles and I am only employing conservation methods to stabilize the collection. However, there are some archaeological projects that don't include conservators at all. At what point should a project include a conservator? When does a process become a "conservation treatment" versus just brushing an object off? Where is the line between removing dirt during excavation and "cleaning"? When does conservation begin?

This last question is one that is not sufficiently answered in the profession, nor should it be. It should be a constant discussion and change through the generations. Conservation professionals from different backgrounds and who work within different specialties may each give a different answer. Here's my two cents:

Conservation is an active process that begins the moment that interventive processes are used in an effort to reveal information about an object or to stabilize it in its physical form. 

So, is cleaning a conservation treatment? Cleaning can happen when the archaeologist removes the object from its in situ location and brushes the loose environmental sediments from the surface or if a curator dusts a painting on a museum wall. The conservation phase would begin if the object requires an advanced mechanical cleaning beyond removing the loose environmental products (dust, dirt, mud). Cleaning an object of patina, tarnish, rust, concretion, or any other product related to that objects material composition or the deterioration of that material requires an awareness beyond gentle brushing or cleaning. You begin to ask questions like: Is it stable enough to be brushed further? Where is the original surface as opposed to the corroded surface?  

Conservation begins if you are removing deposits that originate from the object (and aren't just environmental).

The reason why this type of cleaning is considered a conservation practice is because it is part of the stabilization as many of the deterioration products can cause further damage if left in situ. 

Another example raised in a thesis by Sophie Carman from East Carolina University relates to the interference of conservation treatments on organic residue analysis. Archaeologists often subject pottery and other excavated materials to a brushing and/or soaking process to reveal more information about the object. These materials are then reassembled by the archaeologist or students. In some cases this is done because it has always been what the archaeologist has done to analyze the artifacts and a conservator isn't seen as necessary. In other cases, there is such a large amount of material excavated from the site that it is too much for one conservator to work with in the time allotted, so the conservator may only advise on techniques and products. So the question is then posed again, when does conservation begin in this situation? I would suggest that the process of doing more than simply brushing the material could be classified as a conservation process. Exposing the excavated material to water in a soaking process is an interventive process (i.e. one where you are subjecting the object to an invasive procedure).

To recap:

Is brushing an object an archaeological process or a conservation process? Both! Brushing an object can reveal information that can help with interpretation, but once it goes beyond removing loose sediment, you need specialized training to understand the material and prevent any damage from the cleaning process. Overcleaning can be an irreversible process that removes the original surface of the object (including any inscriptions or raised surfaces). 

Is soaking an object in water an archaeological process or a conservation process? Conservation. Archaeology is the discipline focused on the recovery and interpretation of material culture and those factors that were impacted by and that made an impact on humans. Archaeological conservation is the discipline that reveals the information contained in the object through specialized knowledge in an understanding of the environment and material type in an effort to stabilize the material for interpretation. Is it the conservators responsibility to interpret the object past the physical features? Is archaeological conservation just a technical skill within archaeology? Those are great questions! But, back to this one: Conservation begins when you are using invasive cleaning techniques or exposing the object to chemical treatments (yes, water is a chemical). Exposing an object to water can cause irreversible damage if you don't have experience in working with that type of material. Most archaeologists specialize in a specific geographical area and have decades of experience working with material culture from that site or area and therefore have a good understanding of what cleaning processes are successful and which ones aren't. That doesn't mean that those processes aren't entering the realm of conservation.

At what point do you believe conservation begins? Whether you are caring for a sculpture, a painting, or a historical object, when do you need specialized skills? Leave me a comment!


Site Unseen!

I was recently asked to submit a treatment proposal for a large collection of archaeological materials and I needed to predict what treatments would be used. The caveat was that I was not able to see the collection because it had not been excavated yet. 

This situation is fairly common in archaeological conservation. You need to prepare for a field season not knowing what will need conservation, how it will need to be treated, or how much will need to be treated. Most experienced archaeological conservators can estimate what will be involved by using past experience in the region or past seasons at the site or by using similar sites or collections to estimate what will be excavated in a given time period or over a specific area. With restrictions on traveling with chemicals and space and weight always being a concern, it can be difficult to accurately predict treatments. 

Be sure to choose a professional that has experience in field and remote environments. It can be a daunting task to prepare for all possible scenarios! 

Preserving Tintype Images

In the United States, tintype images were very popular during the Civil War, as well as, into the early 20th century. There are three main factors of deterioration that affect tintypes: improper handling, corrosion from high humidity or exposure to moisture, and light damage so the overall goal is to keep it in a dry and dark storage environment. While we advise contacting a photographic materials conservator for more advanced damage, there are some basic tips for how best to care for these unique documents!

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Labeling Artifacts

One of the most critical aspects to maintaining a large collection is to create an artifact inventory so that you can identify what types of objects are in the collection and other pertinent information (i.e.: donors, storage or display location, artist, etc.). More details about creating an inventory can be found online, but today's post is about how to label artifacts.

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Removing Masking Tape from a Textile

Pressure sensitive tapes are a convenient and easy way to repair a variety of materials, but over time these tapes can degrade and cause damage to the underlying material. Masking tape is a common name that often refers to a paper based backing with a semi-strong adhesive that sticks when applied with pressure. Types of masking tape include household or general purpose masking tape (off white color), painter’s tape (blue or green color), washi tape (various patterns and decorations, often found in craft stores), and drafting tape (less tacky and narrow).


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Mounting Textiles for Hanging

Textiles are some of the most expressive forms of cultural heritage that exist in museums and family collections. They are commonly composed of organic materials of individual fibers that are woven together to form a fabric. Some textiles and textile-based artworks can also include inorganic components including metals or composites. The purpose of the textile is important when considering the desired outcome of the treatment. For example, dresses were made to be worn and should therefore not be stored flat as this can create creases and irreversibly damage the fibers. The information provided here relates to basic concepts of mounting textiles for display or storage.  

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Condition Reports

When examining objects, it is important that conservators describe them in great detail. This can help document what condition an object is in before treatment, identify any changes that have happened to the material over time, or to just provide a record in the event the object is damaged or lost. Photographs can also be helpful in this process, but sometimes areas of damage aren’t visible.

When you are examining an object it is important to record your observations about what the object is, what it is made out of, how it was constructed, and what condition it is in. Are there any attached pieces? Is there any evidence of previous repairs?

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Interested in Conservation as a Career?

Here are some suggestions for a start:

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