Restoration? What, When, and Why?

One of our favorite collection items here at the museum is about to receive a make-over in preparation for our Andersonians in War exhibit in 2021. We are sending our Sechler & Co. Trailmobile field kitchen, of the WWI era, to have a sympathetic restoration. Questions are often asked about what goes into these decisions, what it means to restore an object, and why some are chosen for restoration over others. So here is a brief explanation for the interested reader!

Our field kitchen had spent decades under a barn roof which eventually collapsed on top of it. So, before it came to the museum it had been exposed to the elements so long that natural rotting of wooden components and rusting of metal had occurred. Thanks to preservation efforts here at the ACM, the piece has been stable for years, meaning that decay has stopped. We have chosen to restore the field kitchen because it will be the best way to extend its life and ensure its presence here for posterity. Restoration means to bring an artifact back to its original condition. A sympathetic restoration like we have planned will not make the kitchen functional or look brand new, but rather like it may have looked in the field and during the pre-barn years of its life. This way, we can preserve the integrity of the piece by including as much of the original material as possible.

Our most important objective is to protect and preserve each piece, from our field kitchen all the way down to newspaper clippings. But not every piece needs to be restored. Imagine a kitchen table that has been passed from generation to generation in a family. A piece like that will have scratches, dings, and blemishes, each representing a memory. One scratch may have come from the day some grandparents moved into their first wedded home, or a stain from when a daughter practiced feeding herself. These damages are part of what make each piece unique, and should remain a part of it with those family members in mind. Only when damage affects the projected life of a piece should restoration become a priority.

Please be on the lookout for updates concerning our field kitchen, the Andersonians in War exhibit, and other changes coming to the museum!