Conservation Techniques – Humidifying!

For our practical class last week, the topic and skill we were going to explore was humidification. I wasn’t quite so excited for this topic because it really doesn’t sound that interesting. How wrong I was! I had a lot of fun in class! It was truly amazing how a tiny amount of water vapour can work magic on a creased textile.

In the morning, myself and my fellow North American student constructed a humidification tent. This entailed hacking at some plastic pipe with a saw, and after that broke, a retractable knife and then covering the resulting cube-like shape in plastic in order to create a micro-environment.

Us, Hacking

This task, while entertaining in many ways, was not without some mind-twisting

Us, un-twisting our brains

But eventually we prevailed and we had ourselves a humidification tent!

Here you can see our completed tent and a nifty tool called an ultrasonic humidifier. It’s a clever thing, using sound waves to turn water into water vapor without using heat. This is especially important because heat can accelerate an artifact’s aging, among other things.

Once we raised the relative humidity to around 75-80% (we weren’t being very specific) we placed our object inside. In this case the object was a child’s cap with a little bit of fur trim. The addition of a humidity monitor and a pH metre and we were set to go!


As you can see here we cut a door in the side to allow access. The edges sealed with more masking tape. This functioned fairly well however in hindsight it would have been much simpler to place the door at one short end of the structure. I filed that tidbit away in my lab book for future reference.

We worked on some flat objects as well using other techniques like contact humidification. Below you can see me using contact humidification directly on creased areas of the textile I’m working on.

Don’t I look sciency?

It was definitely a fun day despite the initial hacking and sawing. Besides, as Julie said, we come from strong frontier stock in the Americas so such tasks are nothing!


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