Preventive preservation

Preventive preservation covers all of the measures aimed at anticipating, preventing and slowing natural or accidental damage that is susceptible to alter the 20,000 costume and scenery  elements kept at the CNCS. The objective is to act on the factors causing damage that they can be subjected to such as light, humidity, dust or insects.

Costumes are made of materials that are particularly fragile. On stage they are subjected to repetitive use, the movement of actors, contact with make up or sweat, and sometimes suffer from major damage: holes, tears, wearing, stains, deformations.

Before entering the storage area, new acquisitions are placed in quarantine then treated by anoxia: they are closed for several days in a hermetic bubble deprived of oxygen to eliminate any risks of infestation.

Even if they are now protected, textile pieces remain sensitive to different harmful factors:

  • intensity of natural and electrical light, length of exposure to this light;
  • humidity and temperature (too much humidity results in the appearance of mold;
  • too much heat makes the fibers become fragile and breakable);
  • dust and dirt;
  • insects (some of them particularly appreciate textiles);
  • handling during the preparation of exhibitions;
  • packaging (poor storage in the warehouse).

Their preventive preservation aims to reduce these risks by taking several actions:

  • removing dust by micro vacuuming;
  • checking and following the climatic conditions in the building;
  • repacking in the storage area using padded hangars for hanging costumes, creation of specific supports for costumes stored horizontally and accessories that are generally voluminous (hats, masks or shoes);
  • isolation of elements or material that could present a risk (metal, paint, resin).

Packaging

Preventive preservation is also the ingenious art of how best to store the collections. Hanging, stored horizontally in drawers or on the shelves of the large mobile storage cabinets of the warehouse, the textile treasures of the CNCS are repacked to ensure that they are preserved in the best possible way. The state of each costume, its volume and its fragility determine the means of preservation required. Dresses, jackets, trousers or coats in good condition and capable of being kept in a vertical position are placed on hangars padded with cotton specially designed for this use.

Pieces that are too fragile or too heavy are stored horizontally in large drawers and heavily protected by neutral material. Hats or headgear are stored on the shelves and are placed on sophisticated supports whereas drapery, scarfs or capes are stored on rolls.