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Increasing changes to the museum landscape also have fundamental repercussions for the conservational care, documentation and storage of the museum's heterogeneous holdings, which comprise some 280,000 objects in all. All relevant work in this area is carried out in close cooperation between conservators, museum staff and storeroom managers. A key factor in their work is making provisions for the optimal storage of the objects within the depository and ensuring they can be precisely located, as one of the principle aims of increasing digitalization is to make the object data and the objects themselves accessible to visitors from all over the world. In accordance with the principles of preventative conservation, a record is made of all artefacts in their current condition. They are documented and properly stored using materials that do not become deleterious through ageing, so that the objects can be preserved for as long as possible. A further conservational aspect to preparing exhibitions lies in the development of ideal presentation and transport conditions for our own objects and loans, working together with curators, architects and technicians.
The museum's holdings comprise a diverse array of popular prints, numbering around 94,000 objects in all, including pictorial broadsheets (hand-coloured lithographs, copperplates, etchings), devotional images, books, poster-sized educational prints from schools, posters and three-dimensional objects such as paper theatres. Our conservators are also responsible for the preservation of the extensive photographic collection, which contains 40,000 photos and 500 albums, as well as the postcard collection which has yet to be catalogued and encompasses around half-a-million items. Many of these works consist of complex, specially treated papers and fixtures using other materials, which display various signs of wear through their original use.
The collection comprising some 100,000 objects, ranging from items of furniture, such as cupboards and chests, workshop and shop furnishings provide an insight into the living habits and everyday culture in Europe, primarily in the 19th century. The collection also includes various tools, agricultural and domestic, as well as clocks, frames and utensils used in the production and treatment of textiles. A core focus of conservation work in this area is carried out on inlayed and painted or dyed furniture, panel paintings, wood panelling and sculptures, as well as metals that are found in objects formed by a combination of wood and metal.
Ceramic objects in conservational care include both the 7000 objects in the ceramic collection and our comprehensive collection of some 3000 porcelain and glass objects, the oldest of which date from the 17th century. Our conservators are also responsible for the care and conservation of several groups of objects, numbering over 1000 in all, which are made of natural and synthetic materials, such as wax, amber, natural and artificial stone, horn and bone. Many of the artefacts consist of a combination of materials that require special expertise in conservation science and an interdisciplinary approach to their treatment.
The museum's collection of textiles consists of some 35,000 objects. It includes articles of clothing, fabric-based interior decorations, carpets and rugs, textile samples and beadwork, as well as objects made of synthetic fibres from as early as the late 19th century to the present day. These newer materials present a particular challenge, as many aspects of their ageing processes are still new to us and have not been fully explored. As most of the objects in question stem from everyday culture, the preservation, documentation and appropriate display of the signs of their former use play a vital role. In addition, combinations of such different materials as textiles, metals, paper, glass, leather and synthetic fibres demand interdisciplinary conservational cooperation between specialists.
All objects held at the museum are given professional care by our team of museologists and storeroom managers. Each and every object is inventoried catalogued using a museum documentation programme. Digital photographing and optimal storage based on the nature of the material underpin the object's preservation. In-house museologists also act as museum registrars. The processing of loans, both to and from other institutions, is carried out in cooperation with administration staff and the conservator responsible. Offering assistance to visitors and handling research inquiries from national and international scholars is part of the conservator's job, as is help in the preparation of exhibitions.