During our training, conservators usually specialize in a specific type of material, such as paper or paintings. As we become professionals, we find ourselves in institutions with diverse collections which requires broad conservation knowledge for all of the artifacts under our care, not just those comprised of our favorite material. Nowhere is this truer than at The Strong, where the museum’s collections range from paper dollhouse furniture to Barbie dolls to coin-operated arcade machines.
Renowned Scottish dramatist James M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, wrote, “The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one does.” Taking the notion a step further, 19th-century art critic and social thinker John Ruskin proffered that “mixing enough play with the work” helps ensure that each of our workdays is a happy one.
Some 135 years ago, four squirrels romping merrily through the woods met an unfortunate end. But, fortunately for us, those squirrels found a place in a playful diorama in the museum’s collections. Situated in a well-decorated parlor, the four squirrels are now posed in an eternal game of cards. That made them a perfect illustration for the induction of playing cards into the National Toy Hall of Fame a month ago. But before the diorama could go out on exhibit, it required conservation treatment—cleaning and stabilization of the scene prior to photography and display.