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?
Here is a guide to help identify the types of terms that conservators use:
- visual examination: viewed with your eyes
- microscopic evaluation: viewed using microscopic tools
- macroscopic: viewed with your eyes
- Facing: applying a solid support to the surface of an object for the purposes of providing strength for lifting or manipulating it
- Pronounced: visible in numerous places
- in situ: found in place, as originally designed
- convex (curving outwards, bulging)
- concave (curving inwards, dip)
- entire surface: a feature that is present on the whole object
- localized: a feature that is present in only one or two areas
- sporadic: a feature that is present in a few areas with no apparent pattern
- Relief: decoration stands out on surface, (high-relief: higher than surface, bas-relief: lower than surface)
- cracked: still held together, not split all the way through
- split: the material has separated through each layer, can still be joined or totally separated
- fragmented: broken apart into pieces
- detached: completely separated from
- folded: one layer that has been folded over another
- discolored: a change from the original color
- abraded: surface has been worn away
- delaminated: separated into layers
- flaking: separated into layers and detaching
- Also see: http://www.aiccm.org.au/resources/visual-glossary, http://www.museumtextiles.com/uploads/7/8/9/0/7890082/textile_condition_terms.pdf
If something is flaking/detaching:
- “structurally unstable”
- Crack: separation of two sides that were originally a whole piece
- Cohesive: stuck together as originally intended, uniform
If something is broken:
- Dislodged: not in the original position, but still attached
- Fractured: damaged by being split, but still attached
- Fragmented: detached and in pieces
- “loss of surface”/”surface loss”
It is also important not to use words that are too general. If you were reading your description in 100 years, would you be able to picture the object without an image? Here are some words not to use!
- Broken: Where? How? In what way?
- Damaged: Where? How? In what way?
- “appears to be”
Other useful resources: