“Preventive Conservation: Preserving Our Collection” with Melissa King

Dec 23, 2020

As object people, we care deeply about our collections. For the Trust’s final Trust Talk of 2020 we shared a lecture that will introduce the knowledge, tips, and tricks necessary to best preserve your collection at home. On December 17, 2020, at 7:00 pm ET Melissa King, the Samuel H. Kress Fellow in Preventive Conservation at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the Museum Conservation Institute, shared a presentation titled “Preventive Conservation: Preserving Our Collection.” 

Melissa began her lecture with an introduction to the field of conservation and how she decided to become a preventive conservator.  Melissa compares the field of conservation to medical care. Traditional conservators are like surgeons. They provide interventive treatments for objects that are in need of repair. Preventive conservators have a general understanding of all materials and offer holistic care for entire collections. The preventive conservator does everything they can to limit the need of interventive care. 

To prevent interventive care, preventive conservators are experts at managing risks. Melissa shared the ten agents of deterioration that can be found in any collection and her tips for creating a safe space for managing them. The agents include: physical force, fire, biodeterioration, incorrect temperature, relative humidity, pollutants, light levels, water, theft and vandalism and dissociation and neglect. 

After her presentation, Melissa was joined in conversation with Rebecca Kaczkowski, Preventive Conservator at the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute. The two discussed some of the most severe cases of object harm they had seen as well as the incredibly competitive field of conservation. 

To hear more from this discussion and how you can protect your collection from the ten agents of deterioration, watch Melissa’s Trust Talk here: 


The Trust’s calendar of events shows upcoming Trust Talks and other virtual and in-person programs. For updates on registration openings, sign up for our e-newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. The Trust is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that appreciates the involvement of members and donors who make programming like this possible. 

About The Decorative Arts Trust Bulletin

Formerly known as the "blog,” the Bulletin features new research and scholarship, travelogues, book reviews, and museum and gallery exhibitions. The Bulletin complements The Magazine of the Decorative Arts Trust, our biannual members publication.


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