Care of Objects in Indigenous Cultural Centres

This workshop looks at the preservation of material culture for staff or volunteers with little to no experience in the care of collections. The workshop is designed as an introduction to the care of collections for staff working in Indigenous cultural centres, although others are welcome. The workshop covers how various types of materials deteriorate, how best to minimize this deterioration, how to identify problems of storage and display of various kinds of objects, and how to make informed choices relating to the long-term preservation of collections.

N.B. The following topics are not covered in this workshop: Indigenous perspectives on the care or use of objects; care of sensitive or sacred objects; consultations between Indigenous communities and regional museums.

Learning objectives

Upon completion of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • identify basic deterioration problems of many organic and inorganic materials
  • understand the damaging effects of the most common agents of deterioration
  • choose proper materials and techniques for storage and display of many types of objects found in cultural centres
  • safely handle objects


Objects — what they are made of and what damage can occur

Deterioration of organic materials such as wood, basketry, leather (including brain and smoke-tanned skin), fur pelts, feathers, hair, textiles, bone, ivory and paper. Deterioration of inorganic materials such as metals, glass beads, shell, ceramics and stone. How to recognize various kinds of damage and potential threats. Close-up study of objects and signs of damage. Condition reports and terms to describe condition or damage.

What causes damage

Discussion and presentation on the causes of deterioration. Typical signs of damage and how to recognize them. How to describe the damage and causes (condition terms) and which materials are most affected.

Means of preventing damage

Presentation and discussion on how to prevent various types of damage. Safe and unsafe handling methods and techniques. Safe and unsafe materials. Display and mounting issues, ideas for the safe display of objects, examples of good mounts using a variety of different mount-making techniques and materials, and use of display cases. Ideas for the safe storage of objects and collections, and proper storage methods and techniques, hardware, materials, room design issues, facilities, procedures, and staff awareness and training. The safe removal of dust from objects. The role of the building in the care and overall protection of the collection.

Target audience

Staff from Indigenous cultural centres (or other members of the community) with little to no knowledge of how to care for and protect a mixed collection. Not intended for conservators, conservation technicians or anyone already familiar with the basics of how to care for a collection.


English and French

Enrollment limits

Minimum 10, maximum 20


Two days

Special requirements


  • Lecture room — The lecture room should be large enough to accommodate work tables (approx. 1 m x 2 m) and chairs for the number of enrolled participants (up to 20 participants possible; plan two persons per table) plus additional tables (five or six) for the various supplies and demonstrations. It should be equipped with electrical outlets, a screen, a flip chart or blackboard, and drapes or blinds on the windows. An LCD projector would be useful but can be brought by the instructors. A blank wall for posting information is required, approximately 3 metres (10 feet) wide. The contact person must be willing to accept and store workshop materials shipped in advance of the workshop.
  • Pre- and post-workshop access to the lecture room: access to the lecture room is required for about three hours on the afternoon prior to the workshop to set up, as well as for up to two hours following the end of the workshop (16:00-18:00) to pack up.
  • Exhibit and storage areas (optional): access to exhibit and/or storage areas for a short tour and discussion would be beneficial.
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