Home Faith and Life How to Care for and Preserve Christian Relics and Artifacts

How to Care for and Preserve Christian Relics and Artifacts

by Stephanie Scott

Christian relics and artifacts are usually passed down from generation to generation. Such objects have both historical and cultural significance, so it is of utmost importance to take care of them and keep them in proper condition. It is no secret that all things deteriorate with time, and religious relics are no exception. To ensure that they retain their value, proper preservation measures should be practiced. Here you have some specific techniques for preserving relics and artifacts to keep them in the best condition possible.

How to handle Christian relics and artifacts

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According to fineartshippers.com, the unnecessary handling of Christian relics and artifacts badly affects their condition. For this reason, it is better to eliminate any relocations as much as possible. In case you really need to move your precious possessions, put on nitrile or cotton gloves. If you are afraid of dropping your objects because of gloved hands, do it with your bare hands but ensure that they are lotion-free, dry, and clean first.

Avoid using straps, handles, or any other protruding components when handling your artifacts. Never pull, push, or slide your valuables. It is better to pick them up instead. Make sure you provide full support to the entire piece, especially the base. Always use both hands to achieve greater stability. When handling artworks, it is important to support the side and the bottom. Larger artifacts should be carried by two or more people.

Always remember that paper items and textiles are sensitive to pests attack. Therefore, do not forget to inspect old documents regularly. Remember that checking for insect infestation can really make the difference. When moving paper documents or textiles, use a large, stiff piece of acid-free mat board. Do not store documents in folds or creases, as folded paper fibers may deteriorate much faster at the weakened point of the fold.

You can use trolleys or padded carts for moving heavy relics and artifacts. Make sure the pieces are placed in the cart the way they do not touch each other.

A good idea is to have a clear place to set your artifacts before moving them. The workspace is supposed to be spotlessly clean and free of beverages, food, and sharp instruments like tools, keys, paper clips, and pens. To reduce the risk of items rolling off or sliding, try padding the work surface with archival quality materials.

Major hazards to Christian relics and artifacts

1. Light

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There are three types of light: infrared radiation, visible light, and ultraviolet (UV) light. All types are dangerous enemies of the fragile Christian relics and artifacts. Too much light makes textiles, printed or handwritten paper, relics, and wooden surfaces deteriorate faster. In order not to let high levels of visible and ultraviolet light cause damage to your sacred objects, do not place them next to incandescent lights. When being in transit, cover your antiques or other delicate religious items to eliminate any light exposure. A good idea is to keep them in a windowless room if possible. Your relics and artifacts should not be displayed in an open area for more than three months.

2. Temperature

One of the essential factors for proper storage is temperature control. Too low or too high temperature or rapid temperature swings may cause damage to wooden, metal, and paper-based artifacts. Also, keep in mind that different pieces require different levels of temperature. A normal temperature level is around 60°F to 80°F. To make maintaining the temperature easier, display and store antique items in places with heating and air conditioning. Such climate-control systems will help you keep the environment stable and thus preserve your artifacts. Remember that not having any climate-control system or turning it off for holidays or at night has the same negative impact as storing valuables in attics, basements, and sheds. Most museums use a functioning HVAC system to avoid large fluctuations in temperature.

3. Humidity

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Apart from temperature control, humidity should be also considered. Not only do organic materials absorb and release moisture, but too high humidity can also promote rust on metal and encourage mold growth and pests on parchment, paper, and textiles. On the other hand, too low humidity may cause pieces to become brittle. Relics and artifacts need a stable humidity of approximately 45-55%. When it comes to keeping the items on subterranean levels or the first floor, it is better to use a dehumidifier to reduce humidity.

4. Air pollutants

There are two major types of air pollutants: gaseous pollutants (such as peroxides, nitrogen, ozone, and sulfur dioxides) and particulates (such as soot, pollen, and dust). Both types can be controlled by a quality HVAC system with good filters. Keep in mind that filters are supposed to be changed regularly. Do not store artifacts near smoking areas, fireplaces, and cooking places. Do not leave your doors and windows open. Besides, avoid harsh chemicals like ammonia and bleach and use mild cleansers instead. Also, vacuum floors and mop them with plain water regularly.

5. Pests

Pests include mildew, mold, vertebrates (mammals and birds), and insects (beetles, silverfish, and moths). Different types of pests are attracted to different types of materials. Moths prefer fibers, such as wool and silk. Wood attracts termites. Silverfish and roaches are keen on old books and paper. To prevent pest infestation, maintain proper humidity and temperature levels, tightly seal your windows and doors, regularly tidy the surfaces, and conduct inspections of your Christian relics and artifacts from time to time.

6. Human beings

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One of the greatest threats to various types of relics and antiques is human beings. People can transfer oil, sweat, and make-up from their skin to the objects when handling or moving them to another location. This may leave undue strains on the valuable pieces and put them at risk for damage or even loss, which is another good reason to wear nitrile or cotton gloves when dealing with old textiles, paper, metal, and wooden items.

Hopefully, these tips and information will help you care for and preserve your treasured Christian relics and artifacts for years to come.

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