Friday, April 11, 2014

Globe conservation, and protection

     "Is there anything special I need to do to take care of an antique globe? "   This question seems to come up quite often, for this I think we need to steal a page from those who collect antiquarian books. Globes are essentially works on paper, so it stands to reason that what is good for books, is also good for maps and globes.
     The most important thing you can do is dust your collection, many old globes show the effect of poor housekeeping on their surface. Take a good look at a globe especially one 80-100 years old and a pattern will usually emerge. The top 1/2 of the globe will be darker, and a bit duller than the bottom, this is an accumulation of dust and grime from a century of existence, also horizon rings are susceptible to dust buildup and often darken with time.  I use a swiffer duster, at least weekly and I take my time not to snag the duster on any parts. It seems to be the best method I've found so far. I like to keep a separate swiffer just for my collection, apart from the one used in the rest of the house, just so I know it has not picked up anything sticky, or abrasive in it's travels. ( I've got a 3 and 6 year old to consider )
     Protection from sunlight is also important, UV rays will fade many printed surfaces, just think of a newspaper that was left outside even for a few days, it will be noticeably faded.  So how to protect a whole collection?  I have taken an extreme measure and installed UV blocking window film to all windows in the two rooms that house my collection, this step is in addition to window shades that also significantly dim the visible light in these two rooms.  Is this all necessary? I don't really know but I don't want to take any chances with my collection. I want to show this picture the window on the right has a UV blocking film treatment and the window on the left does not, this is at 1pm on a fairly sunny day.
Notice the glare on the left, and on the right it's as if the window had sunglasses on.

   I live fairly far north, and receive far less intense sunlight than someone in the southwest, or southeast, but for piece of mind these steps seem reasonable to me.
     Humidity is also an enemy of paper, and wood.  Too wet is probably worse than too dry, but neither extreme is very good.  Humidity is going to be a larger problem if you live in an area of the country that is chronically humid like Florida, or chronically dry like Arizona.  Winter dryness is a problem  in the north where the heat goes on in October and stays on until May, I monitor humidity, because I am worried about dryness, ideal humidity is between 40-60%  if you are comfortable, your globes will be comfortable too.
     Handling your collection, I handle my globes all the time, I just use common sense. Globes are ment to be touched, I know I can't pass by a globe at a flea market and not touch it, I even let my kids touch my globes ( with supervision ) that way their curiosity won't get the best of them when I'm not around.....I hope...
     Now I want to switch gears a bit and talk about insurance, even the best homeowners policy will not cover you if a prized globe is dropped, or is stolen, or if flood or fire wipe out your entire collection, If you've spent a decade assembling a prized collection then it only makes sense to insure it, you are insuring all of the time you spent hunting for your treasure as well. There are specialist insurers out there for people who's collection starts to outpace the limits of their regular homeowners policy. Believe me it does not take long to surpass the meager limits on a regular homeowners policy. As with any consumer product some companies are better than others, I am not an expert so I will not recommend any one company, but it is certainly worth having in my opinion.
     I have probably taken more steps than most people to keep a constant environment, my globes sit in the dark most of the time, even at noon I have to turn a light on to really see my collection, extreme? probably, but I look at it this way. I own these globes now, but I won't own them forever. They are in my care, until the next caretaker steps in. Gutenberg bibles, they are not, but anything worth collecting is worth protecting in my opinion.


  1. Kyle,

    I think your post on conservation of your vintage or antique globe is spot on. If you purchased a globe because of it's beauty why not go that little extra to maintain it? I think everyone who has any globes at all, be they collectors or just for decoration should read this post.

  2. Carolyn, Thank you I'm always worried that I'm not doing enough, I just think it's a shame to see a globe at an antique flea market and it looks great from a distance except for moisture damage, or water staining from a basement or attic. I guess that's why the nice ones are hard to find.