Technique #1

The importance of being dusted

Dust is a critical matter for museum pieces conservation and curation. It is a fickle thing to remediate, too. Religious quotes are commonly found that refers to that ever spreading layer of tiny particles: ashes to ashes, dust to dust and so on and so forth. The very same that drives bonkers conservators, curators and collectors alike.

Dadaism included it in its pieces but most of us, mere mortals, try to eradicate the very essence of it via endless streams of vacuums, dust kits and dry wipes. Cursing may or may not be a part of it, too.

This mundane operation takes another scale when applied to a museums’ treasures. Conservators and technicians use a very large and sometimes (most of the time) homemade devices ranging from micro-vacuum apparatuses to very soft watercolor brushes or very gentle blows of compressed air.
The method is dictated by the object and its fragility: no one will ever consider vacuuming a Tibetan sand mandala. Or maybe once before a sudden career change.

Dusting can also be more thorough, from using erasers of different kinds to applying and absorbing chemicals. Once again, material dictates.

Erasing spots on a XVIIIth century drawing may not be a good idea, neither is using a water based solvent on a roman fibula but lightly using a rubber eraser on plastics might do the trick.
Dusting is a daily, common task but it  should never be underestimated. As every other actions on a museum piece, it requires a close examination of it and its structure and composition to elaborate the safest treatment method possible.
Usually, experience and a dash of common sense do the trick to allow a safe and efficient action. But when in doubt:  breath, look and think. This is one action that cannot be undone.
Dusting is a delicate and litterate art. Try to use that as a motto during your next round of chores…