Tips for collectors - how to worry less and enjoy more

So you have a few precious things, or lots of them. Its now up to you to care for them. We have compiled a few tips to help you out, but some things are tricky. Don’t hesitate to contact Culture Counsel if you would like some help.

Keep accurate records

1 \ Compile a database of all the objects in your collection based on Object ID, which is an international standard for minimum requirements describing art, antiques and antiquities. The nine suggested fields are: type of object, materials and techniques, measurements, inscriptions and markings, distinguishing features, title, subject, date or period, maker. Set up a system to which you can easily add new objects over time. Start with a basic spreadsheet.

2 \ Take very good photographs; of the front, the back, the sides, inside, frames, pedestals, labels, and any distinguishing features.

3 \ Undertake periodic and complete stocktakes of the collection against this database. This will enable you to be better prepared for disasters, insurers, the taxation department, loan requests, researchers, and lawyers!

4 \ Consider the importance of your collection archives as well as your collection. These include: stocktake lists, purchase and acquisition records, catalogues, photographs, exhibition records, and original correspondence. Caring for these is vital to protecting your legacy and investment.

Care for the objects

5 \ There are many simple ways of ensuring the condition and long-term survival of objects. In relation to the environment in which you store your work, consider the impacts of temperature, relative humidity, sunlight, vermin, visitors and possible disasters in much the same way as museums do. Some good solutions can of course be expensive, whilst others are merely common sense.

6 \ If there is an accident, or should we say, when you have an accident, seek professional advice from a qualified conservator promptly.

7 \ If objects need to be stored and there is nowhere suitable at home, consider a professional storage company.

Lend for good reasons

8 \ Consider requests for loans of objects for temporary exhibitions from reputable public museums. Don’t forget to consider all the terrific smaller professionally managed museums and galleries whose work and profiles often have a national reach and audience.

9 \ Always insist on a formal loan agreement or contract when lending works, no matter who the borrower is. Read the terms and conditions of the loan carefully as they are likely to vary. If you don’t understand the impact of any condition, ask for clarification.

10 \ Check and be satisfied with the terms of insurance when lending objects. If you don’t fully understand these terms, don’t hesitate in asking for them to be clarified, as sometimes it is difficult to imagine their impact.

11 \ Insurance terms are based on identifying the exact condition of a work, both before and after a loan, so ensure that a formal condition report is prepared for you by the borrower in advance of moving anything. Agree to the statement, and co-sign it.

12 \ Clarify and agree to the exact wording of the credit line for the label and the catalogue. For security reasons, you may not always wish to include your name.

Install judiciously

13 \ Please arrange for a professional to install your objects. This is safer for the object and for your home, and it will undoubtedly look much better. Locations away from children, pets, windows, direct light, fireplaces, and AC, humidifier and heating units are recommended, or else you may only end up enjoying your collection for a brief time before it perishes.

14 \ Insist that your framer and support-maker uses pH-neutral materials. This includes the glue, mount card, barrier paper, etc. The wrong materials may rapidly cause deterioration rather than protection.

15 \ If your work is framed with Perspex and not glass, do not use glass cleaner as this will damage the Perspex. Only use special Perspex cleaner or you will irrevocably damage the Perspex.

16 \ When cleaning a glass- or Perspex-framed work, spray the cleaner onto a cloth then rub the surface. Do not spray directly onto the glass or Perspex as it may seep behind and damage the work.

and one more for good luck:

17 \ Contact Culture Counsel to further help you care for your work, so that you can get on with more interesting things. We have experience and expertise in all these areas, and more.

Image: Willem van Haecht, The Picture Gallery of Cornelis van der Geest, Rubenshuis Collection, Antwerp, Belgium