Artifact Labeling 101

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How to label museum artifacts by the Collections Care and Conservation Alliance. This presentation cannot be used without permission.

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  • Inventory control. Security. Physical connection to documentation. Others?
  • Difficult to standardize the materials b/c different object have different potential risks. Can standardize location of labels based on object type as well as the materials used.
    Who makes the decisions? A Board? A Curator? Volunteers? Nobody?
    Where are procedures written down? If you don’t have a collections management policy, where else could they be recorded? How do you make sure the labelers know about them?
  • Any time that inventorying is happening is a good time for pre-existing collections. Or set up a project in which this is the goal. Take digital photographs at the same time. Label new acquisitions as soon as they are officially accepted.
    Not all artifacts can safely be labeled directly. EXAMPLE:
    Some labeling materials, such as lacquers which include solvents, should be used in a well-ventilated room and the labeler should wear nitrile gloves. Some labeling methods are easier to use than others. Applying numbers with fine paint brushes or crow quill pens used to be the standard practice, but this can be very difficult to do successfully.
  • All labels should be reversible. It is important to be aware of what solvents reverse the labels and whether or not the solvent has any adverse effect on the artifact itself. Pencil is often the safest marking material.
    It is important to record any and all pre-existing labels. Old labeling materials may be causing harm to the artifact. Removal may be complicated and may require consultation with a conservator.
    Does anyone have experience with this?
  • AIC and AMA did a collaborative project in 1996 to help devise guidelines for labeling policies.
  • Do any of you have pre-determined locations for your labels?
    Is there any consistancy?
    Why is it helpful to label things in the same place  helps prevent unnecessary searching for label and therefore minimizes the handling of the artifact.
  • Have you seen any previous labeling locations that seem good or bad in your collections?
    Can you think of any other places to avoid?
  • Can you think of any examples in your collection that might fall into this category?
    Answering this type of questions is one of the free services CCCA offers to its members.
  • Does anyone do this already?
    Remember to use pencil whenever possible since it is lightfast and will not be adversely effected by water or solvents.
    Make sure your labeling materials are stable. Use acid-free, buffered papers and unbleached cotton ties when possible.
    Try to place these labels in the same place.
  • There is no single type of label that is appropriate for all of the materials in one collection.
    What are the most common types of artifacts in your collections?
    What types do you see as being particularly problematic?
  • Artifact Labeling 101

    1. 1. Artifact Labeling 101 Presented by Emily Phillips and Carolyn Frisa from the Collections Care and Conservation Alliance  
    2. 2. • allows you to maintain inventory control of your collections Why Label Artifacts in Your Historical Society of Museum? • can provide some security in the event of theft or other disaster • the label acts as the physical connection between the artifact and its documentation and any other information
    3. 3. • Can methods of labeling be standardized across your collections? Questions to consider when developing a labeling policy: • Are labeling procedures part of your collections management policy? If not, is it written down anywhere? • Who makes the decisions about labeling in your institution?
    4. 4. • When is the best time to label artifacts already in your collection? What about new acquisitions? Questions to consider when developing a labeling policy: • Can all of the artifacts be marked in a way that does not cause damage? • Are the labeling materials safe to use for the person who is handling them? Are any health and safety precautions necessary? Are they easy to use?
    5. 5. • Should labels be reversible? Easy to remove? Questions to consider when developing a labeling policy: • What do you do with pre-existing labels that may no longer be relevant? • What do you do with labels on artifacts that your institution is deaccessioning? Who removes them? What is the policy? • Does your institution ever accept loans? How are these labeled?
    6. 6. Where should you put the label? “Mark objects in an accessible locations that is not visible to the public when on display. Choose stable surfaces unlikely to be destroyed by abrasion. Avoid marking places where an object sits (e.g. its base), where it will be touched when routinely handled, and where the surface is flaking or damaged.” -American Institute for Conservation & American Association Museums
    7. 7. Where should you put the label? The type of artifact determines the most appropriate place for a label, but try to label like artifacts in a similar place. Verso of metal military medal. Inside of right jacket cuff. Lower right verso corner of photograph.
    8. 8. Where should you put the label? General Precautions • don’t write on the front of artifact - this is more common than you might think! • don’t place adhesive labels directly on the artifact. • Avoid marking on or near areas of damage such as tears, chips, abrasions, cracks, etc. • Don’t write on the base of objects. This causes unnecessary handling and the labels can rub off.
    9. 9. Sometimes it isn’t safe or possible to place the label directly on the artifact. Whenever you are dealing with potentially complicated artifacts, it is always best to consult a conservator first. CCCA has objects, paintings, and paper conservators who can help answer these questions. Insect specimens with paper labels and pins. Natural history specimens with water-resistant labels and permanent ink.
    10. 10. Don’t forget to add extra labels when the object is in storage. Adding extra labels to housing enclosures and to the artifacts in storage can dramatically reduce unnecessary handling and wasted time searching for an artifact. Add digital photos when possible. Paper tag with pencil number on sword handle. Digital photo printed on Permadur on outside of pamphlet box. Label printed on Permadur in Melinex sleeve on outside of document box.
    11. 11. What is the right type of label for the artifact? Different types of artifacts require different types of labels. Labels can be tied or sewn to the artifact. Labels can be applied to the artifact on top of a barrier coat. Sometimes labels can be written on the housing enclosures only.
    12. 12. Guidelines for Labeling Textiles Do’s • Label each textile individually. • Do use twill tape labeled marked with pencil. • Stitch cotton tape to artifact with only 1 or 2 stitches at each end. • Use white cotton thread for and a small gauge needle. • Label textiles in the same place for each type. example: stitch label onto the lower right corner on the back of flat textiles Don’ts • Don’t just label one part (i.e only one glove in a pair). • Don’t write directly on the fabric, especially with pens or inks. • Don’t create unnecessary stitches. • Don’t use colored threads unless they are known to be stable. • Don’t adhere adhesive labels to textiles  staining will occur and the adhesive can damage fibers.
    13. 13. Unbleached white cotton twill tape is ideal. It is available from conservation suppliers and costs approximately $13 for a 72 yard roll. It can also be used for tying labels onto other types of objects. Thread and needles can be obtained from a local fabric store. B pencils can be found at art supply stores. White Cotton Twill Tape White cotton thread and needle. Materials for Labeling Textiles “B” graphite pencils
    14. 14. Guidelines for Labeling Objects – glass, metals, ceramics and other inorganic materials Do’s • Label each object individually. • If there are pieces that can be easily detached, make sure these are also labeled. • Do apply a barrier resin (B-67 or B-72 in acetone) to the object prior to applying the label. • Use Micron pigma pens to write labels or print labels on acid-free, buffered papers such as Permadur. • Label objects in the same place for each type. Don’ts • Don’t just label one part. • Don’t write directly on the object. • Don’t use metal-nibbed pens or quills  they will irreversibly scratch or mar the surface. • Don’t use barriers or inks that have not been tested by conservators (i.e. nail polish, permanent markers, etc.). • Don’t adhere adhesive labels to objects. • Don’t use colored inks (black only).
    15. 15. Pre-mixed barriers (lacquers) are available from conservation suppliers and cost around $8.00 and are come in clear and opaque white with brush applicators. These can be used with pencils or pigma pens. Labels can also be printed on acid- and lignin-free paper (available from conservation suppliers) and adhered with the B-72 while wet. For written labels, a barrier coat should be applied first and allowed to dry. A second top coat should be applied after the numbers have dried. Clear and Opaque White B-72 Lacquer in Acetone Printed paper labels.Micron Pigma Pens - Black Materials for Labeling Objects – glass, metals, ceramics and other inorganic materials
    16. 16. Guidelines for Labeling Objects – rubber, leather, wood, feathers and organic materials Do’s • Label each object individually. • Do attach paper labels with soft cotton thread. • Use pencils or Micron pigma pens to write labels or print labels on acid-free, buffered papers such as Permadur. • Label objects in the same place for each type. • Label the outside of all housing materials. Don’ts • Don’t just label one part. • Don’t write directly on the object. • Don’t use barrier layers (lacquers) because they contain potentially harmful solvents. • Don’t use pens inks that have not been tested by conservators (permanent markers, etc.). • Don’t adhere adhesive labels to objects. • Don’t use colored inks (black only).
    17. 17. Archival tag kits are available from conservation suppliers and offer a safe and easy to apply labeling system. A pack of 100 tags costs from approximately $15 to $25 depending upon the size of the tag. Acid- and lignin-free tags with cotton ties “B” graphite pencils & black pigma pens Materials for Labeling Objects – rubber, leather, wood, feathers and organic materials Printed paper labels.
    18. 18. Guidelines for Labeling Paper-Based Artifacts Do’s • Do write on the reverse of the paper artifact. • Use a soft ‘B’ pencil and do not press down when writing. • Label paper artifacts in the same place on the reverse. • Do label secondary supports and framing materials (mats, mounts, backings). • Do label the outside of all housing materials, including boxes, folders, and frames. Don’ts • Don’t write on the front of the paper artifact. • Don’t use mechanical pencils or hard pencils. • Don’t use pens or inks of any kind. • Don’t use barrier layers (lacquers) because they contain potentially harmful solvents. • Don’t adhere adhesive labels to paper artifacts. • Don’t clip or staple labels to paper artifacts.
    19. 19. Only soft “B” graphite pencils should be used for marking paper. Write gently to avoid leaving a permanent impression. Labeling kits for boxes are available from conservation suppliers in a variety of sizes. For example a set of 100 2.5” x 3.75” labels costs approximately $15.00. You can add digital images and text and then print hem on a laser printer. Or you can print your own labels on acid-free, buffered paper. “B” graphite pencils Printed labels and Melinex sleeves for boxes. Printed paper label with digital image. Materials for Labeling Paper-Based Artifacts
    20. 20. Guidelines for Labeling Paintings Do’s • Do provide each painting with a label(s). • Apply a label to the backing board. This can be written on the board directly with a soft ‘B’ pencil. • Apply a paper tag with a cotton string to the framing hardware. Don’ts • Don’t write on directly on the front or back of the painting. • Don’t write directly on the frame. • Don’t use pens or inks of any kind. • Don’t use barrier layers (lacquers) because they contain potentially harmful solvents. • Don’t adhere adhesive labels to the painting or framing materials. • Don’t use metal wire to attach the paper tags.
    21. 21. Only soft “B” graphite pencils should be used for marking the labels. Archival tag kits are available from conservation suppliers and offer a safe and easy to apply labeling system. Or you can print your own labels on acid-free, buffered paper and attach them with cotton thread. “B” graphite pencils Acid- and lignin-free tags with cotton ties Materials for Labeling Paintings
    22. 22. Material • acid-free, chemically inert labels, tags, paper, etc. • Acryloid B-72 and B-76 (premixed in acetone) • Twill cotton tape • “B” graphite pencils, small (000- 000) brushes, Pigma pens • Glide dental floss • Small gauge needle and white cotton thread Suppliers • Gaylord, Light Impressions, Talas, University Products • Gaylord, Talas, University Products • Gaylord, Talas, University Products • Talas, local art supply stores • Local drugstores • Local fabric store List of Suppliers for Labeling Materials
    23. 23. Collections Care and Conservation Alliance Working together to care for New England’s cultural collections   collectionscare@gmail.com Tel. (802)428-4188 www.collectionscarealliance.wordpress.com and be sure to find us on Facebook

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