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Conservation

What is conservation?


Conservation’s principle goal is the preservation of cultural material for future generations, so that a century from now, visitors can still enjoy the objects our visitors see today.

The Museum's Conservators are responsible for protecting, preserving, and if necessary, treating items in our collection. Most of what we do falls under preventive conservation: ensuring an object will be preserved in the best possible state for the future by avoiding (and minimising) deterioration or loss before it happens. It can be a delicate balancing act to ensure we're sharing the collection with the public, while also reducing the risk to objects from potential damage due to exposure.

It’s not always just about prevention. We also carry out a wide range of remedial conservation treatments. Sometimes this means working directly with an object to stop ongoing damage and deterioration. Sometimes it means reinforcing an item’s physical structure to prevent further damage occurring.

All our conservation work is carried out in accordance with international codes of ethics and professional guidelines. Our team are all members of New Zealand Conservators of Cultural Materials (NZCCM).

A day in the life

Since we have over 1.5 million objects in the collection, from Greek pots to taxidermied animals, conservation is a varied job. These are just a few of the more common tasks that might make up a conservator's week:

  • Examining and evaluating new items for the collection
  • Treating damaged or deteriorating objects
  • Preparing objects for exhibition and display
  • Maintaining and adjusting display and storage environments according to each object's needs
  • Carrying out pest management activities
  • Repacking stored objects to better preserve them for the long-term
  • Studying new conservation science, technologies and techniques
  • Researching materials and techniques to devise new treatments
  • Assessing the condition of objects prior to handling, sampling or photography
  • Undertaking scientific analysis and working with external researchers or scientists to better understand each object


To learn more about Conservation at the Otago Museum, check out our archive of blog posts. 

Conservation support and outreach

In our first year as a team we've been delighted to begin offering free conservation advice and, where possible, to support to a wide range of museums, heritage organisations, clubs and societies, and private individuals all over Otago.

We're committed to continuing to share our knowledge and skills throughout the region. So, we've developed formal agreements with five museums from across Otago's four main council areas, offering ongoing conservation support and advice throughout the year.

It’s been a pleasure to work with the staff at the North Otago Museum, Cromwell Museum, South Otago Museum, Olveston Historic Home and Ōtākou Memorial Centennial Church Museum and to share our knowledge with them and the wider community.

We've also been able to spread the word about conservation to a wider audience through a number of talks to groups and societies in Dunedin and further afield this year. Topics have included Conserving Museum Collections, Conservation in Archaeology, The Conservation, Storage and Display of Textiles and The Conservation of Modern Materials.

We're looking forward to continuing and building on our current conservation advice and outreach activities in the next year. We’ll be posting about what we get up to on the blog, so check out the conservation category for updates on our exploits.

Conservation services

We offer a range of commercial conservation services, including condition surveys, conservation planning, environmental advice, material testing, tailored training sessions and remedial conservation treatments.

Recent clients include:


Policies, strategies and guidelines

The Conservation and Collection Care Policy document was approved by the Otago Museum Trust Board at their June 2015 meeting.

 Otago Museum Conservation and Collection Care Policy 

Ask a question

To enquire about conservation support, outreach, commercial conservation services, or conservation placement and internship opportunities please contact our Conservation Manager.

Useful links

 Australian Institute of the Conservation of Cultural Materials

 The Institute of Conservation (UK)

 American Institute for Conservation

 Canadian Association for Conservation

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