When visitors come into a museum, what they see is the end product of a gallery exhibit. What they don’t see is everything that happens in order for an item to be placed in a case. Before an item can be placed in a glass enclosure, it has to be slowly and methodically cleaned, with attention to detail on the cleaning process.
Working in pairs, the team at the Museum has begun the process of cleaning the 26 display cases in the Permanent Gallery. The actual cleaning procedure was developed by the contract employees working at the Museum, and is a two page document outlining the procedures currently being used.
Screens in two different sizes were made with two sizes of wood strips, and a fine mesh metal screen. The screens are to prevent the material in the cases from lifting up as the material is vacuumed. This screen and vacuum technique is also used for cleaning textiles.
Before vacuuming, obvious pieces of lint, dust, thread, and organic material are removed with tape using a “dabbing” technique. A rolling tape technique, similar to a lint remover for clothes, is not used. This technique lifts and pulls at material, which could damage the interior of a display case. Once larger pieces of dirt have been removed, the vacuuming begins.
Vacuuming a case requires two people; one person holds the screen in place while the other person vacuums. The vacuuming process is slowly, lining up each sweep so that no areas are missed. The process begins with the top of the case walls, and proceeds down to the bottom of the wall. The floor of the case is vacuumed last.
Once the vacuuming is complete, the glass doors are cleaned with museum quality glass cleaner and micro-fiber cloth.
After vacuuming and glass cleaning is complete, the doors to the cases are left open for a minimum of half an hour.
It takes approximately three to four hours to clean a small to medium size case, and almost a full day to clean a large case. Once all the cases are cleaned, the preparation for items to place in the cases will begin.