Learning about Conservation through the Minnesota Historical Society Website

In class we’ve discussed the importance of different conservation and preservation methods and when it is best to use these methods. I was interested in seeing if specific museums would have similar information on their websites or information on their own conservation spaces. The Minnesota Historical Society has a great website with detailed information on their conservation facilities and the projects that have been done there. The museum was started in 1849 and after a long history of moving facilities, found it’s home in St Paul in 1992.

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The website’s homepage has a specific tab for ‘Preservation’ which includes a section on ‘Conservation’. The first item on the page is an advertisement for touring the museums conservation department. This would be an easy way to see their conservation space in person and ask any questions about their techniques face to face. If someone can’t get to the museum, they have a link for taking virtual tours. It’s a simple panoramic view of three different conservation spaces: the Harold and Ebba Hoffman Book/Paper Laboratory, the Daniels Objects Conservation Laboratory and the Textile Conservation Laboratory. This is an interesting feature to have on a museum website and I haven’t come across it before. It’s a great way to get a quick behind the scenes tour and see the differences between each laboratory.

The site features an assortment of conservation care resources connected with the museum. This includes information on how to care for collections, both in written form and via podcast. The podcast page hasn’t been updated for a while but there are multiple 10 minute long videos on how to take care of textiles. This part of the website seems to be geared towards people in this field trying to learn techniques for their own collections. There is also a video on the site that is geared towards families or non-academic people who are interested in taking care of their own collections. It discusses the Minnesota Historical Society’s facilities and certain ways one can preserve their own valued objects. It’s good that they have material on their website geared towards different groups of people, as well as putting that information in different formats like text or video.

Another interesting link on the page is ‘Treatments and Projects’. This has a list of different conservation projects they’ve completed and information on the techniques used for the items. It’s really cool to read about the different projects that have been done and the varying amount of objects that they’ve worked on. At the top of the page they note that volunteers are an integral part of this process and that some of the listed projects were done with the help of these volunteers.

Towards the bottom of the website there’s a survey visitors can take in order to tell the staff what was enjoyable or not on the website. I think this really sums up how user friendly this page is. Through the survey you can provide contact information if you have any specific questions. You can tell that this site is truly for the public being that they have so many sources rather than just featuring information about their own facilities. There’s really nothing else that I could imagine them displaying online. I think they do a great job getting as much valuable information to their audience as possible and I’m sure if someone had suggestions, they’d take them into account.

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One thought on “Learning about Conservation through the Minnesota Historical Society Website

  1. It sounds like the Minnesota Historical Society is really trying to increase the public accessibility of areas of the museum that are traditionally off-limits to the general public. I have only seen virtual tours of exhibit halls and galleries, and even those are hard to come by. I love the idea of “behind-the-scenes” virtual tours of the conservation labs. Virtual tours of the work spaces of museum professionals is a wonderful idea for increasing public accessibility and knowledge of museum practices. I’d like to see this practice adopted by other museums. It’d be really cool to see virtual tours of collections spaces at art museums and research laboratories at natural history museums. I wonder if by increasing public knowledge about the behind-the-scenes work that museums do, that these virtual tours might help to raise attendance numbers and donations.

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