Broken objects are put back together in the ceramics workshop © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum Europäischer Kulturen / Ute Franz-Scarciglia; CC NC-BY-SA
Using a magnifying glass, the conservator-restorer gets to the bottom of things © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum Europäischer Kulturen / Ute Franz-Scarciglia; CC NC-BY-SA
A metal object in the hands of the conservator-restorer © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum Europäischer Kulturen / Ute Franz-Scarciglia; CC NC-BY-SA
A wooden object being carefully restored © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum Europäischer Kulturen / Ute Franz-Scarciglia; CC NC-BY-SA
At the heart of the museum are the objects and artefacts themselves. One of our most important tasks is to document, store, and conserve these objects in a modern and appropriate manner. Our aim is to preserve the 280,000 separate objects in our collection for as long and in as good a state as possible.
To achieve this end, conservators, museum and storeroom staff and photographers work closely together. Committed to preventative conservation, our staff records the condition of each object, enters its details into the museum’s database and ensures that it is stored in an appropriate manner with durable materials that are resistant to ageing in line with the best conservation practices. For exhibitions, a team of conservators, curators, architects and technicians work in tandem to develop the optimum conditions for the presentation and transport of objects and loans.
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 conservator is 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 ist not catalogued and encompasses around half-a-million items. Many of these works consist of complex printed, 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 of Europeans, 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 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 undergoing conservation treatments include both the 7,000 objects in the ceramic collection and our comprehensive collection of some 3,000 porcelain and glass objects, the oldest of which date from the 17th century. Our conservator is also responsible for the care and conservation of several so-called object groups including over 1,000 items 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 requires a special conservational-scientific expertise 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 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 conservation treatments from specialists from across the Staatliche Museen.
All objects held at the museum are given professional care by our team of museologists and storeroom managers. Each and every object is 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 museologists’ job, as is help in the preparation of exhibitions.