Thursday, September 4, 2014

Book Review - Rust Never Sleeps

I've reviewed a number of books by now, but so far they've covered general museology, the evolution of the field, strategic planning and ethical guidelines. So I thought it might be time to delve into something a little more specific. One of the things we've been talking about lately is that we are not the experts in everything, and that's okay. What's important is that we know where to go, who the experts are, what resources are available, etc etc.

This is what brings me to one of the very specific books in our reference library. Rust Never Sleeps: Recognizing Metals and Their Corrosion Products was co-authored by Austrian, Canadian, and Dutch conservators and conservation scientists and was published by our very own Parks Canada. This means we have copies in both English and French.

Metals can be confusing, especially when you get into all the alloys and patinas. Add corrosion products to the mix and it's easy to get scared. What caused it? Will it spread to other artifacts in the collection? Can it be stopped? How can you tell the difference between active and stable corrosion? What on earth does "passive corrosion" mean??? While this handy little book won't answer all of your questions, its title really says it all. With this book by your side you'll be able to identify the various metals and their corrosion products. With sections on copper (and alloys), iron, silver, tin, and lead, you should be able to figure out exactly what is in the museum's collection. In each section are quick bullets on how to recognize that particular metal, focusing on colour, magnetism, weight, and deciphering makers' marks. Following these bullets are quick hints on corrosion of the metal, focusing on distinguishing characteristics such as colour and look.

This book is extremely visual, providing the reader with examples of the various metal types and what kinds of objects were made from each type. Additional images of corrosion types show how to know whether the corrosion is stable or active and explain what conditions or circumstances led to the corrosion.

The final few pages of the book contain advice for the reader. Common problems and solutions are outlined, and are very simple to understand and carry out. Whether you notice silver tarnish or condensation in an artifact storage bag, quick tips are there to help you alleviate the problem. The only problem I noticed in this section is that the old Preserving My Heritage website is referenced and that has since disappeared. The next section reviews factors of deterioration, or as we often call them, the 10 agents. The agents have been reviewed in a way that focuses solely on how they affect metals, which can be very useful to people who have not been trained in the basics of conservation.
For those who want to study more about metals and their corrosion, an entire page was devoted to references, and most of those books or resources can be found online or in the ANSM library.

I've mentioned before that I'm a big fan of workbooks and quick tip sheets; solid references that you can learn from quickly. We wear so many hats and end up running around so much in our jobs that such resources are crucial in our work. So while it won't take you long to read this little book once, it's definitely one that will be returned to, time and time again.

No comments: