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Subject: Storing cosmetics and toiletries

Storing cosmetics and toiletries

From: Sarah Reidell <sarah_reidell<-at->
Date: Friday, March 20, 2009
Tonya Outtram <058035200 [at] students__lincoln__ac__uk> writes

>I am an MA Conservation student, and my dissertation/research
>project topic concerns the storage of cosmetics and toiletries in
>museum collections.  There seems to be very little previous research
>on this subject--does anyone know of any?

We have also been stymied by the lack of published material on the
subject of storage of cosmetics and toiletries in museum, library,
and archival special collections. We hope that by sharing our own
experiences with these materials it could spark more discussions to
the benefit of the conservation community.

The New York Public Library recently acquired the complete run of
Visionaire, a contemporary art and fashion publication, which
incorporates multi-media and three-dimensional materials including
cosmetics, perfumes in glass vials, vinyl records, starch-based
"flavor strips", textiles, and various plastics with text and

Various types of damage were noted while unpacking Visionaire from
the original packaging after the acquisition. Three small cosmetics
containers, specially formulated by the Prescriptives cosmetic
company for this publication, are inserted into the front cover of
issue #19 "Beauty" (1996/1997). The plasticizers in the containers
are degrading, leading to embrittlement and cracking. The mascara
was spoiled by contamination and/or exposure and has burst open. The
liquid lip-gloss has separated and oily components are leaking into
the cover and being transferred with handling. There is some
information available from Visionaire's promotional material and the
cosmetic containers, but we have been unsuccessful in multiple
attempts to contact the cosmetics manufacturer for further
ingredient information.

We have been fortunate in getting advice from other conservators who
have also encountered cosmetics.  So far our treatment plan, based
on advice from colleagues at MOMA, limits further damage by
isolating these materials by sealing them and using Mylar barriers.
After recommendations from photograph conservators who deal with
face-mounted photographs we will create custom enclosures with Tyvek
interiors to limit scratches and abrasions. Hopefully these measures
will preserve and enable future researchers to assemble the
component parts as originally intended.

We would be interested in any comments you or other DistList readers
might have, and we will share more details as we progress in the

Sarah Reidell
Associate Conservator for Books and Paper
Werner Haun, Collections Care Conservator
Barbara Goldsmith Preservation Division
New York Public Library
Fax: 212-302-5328

                  Conservation DistList Instance 22:54
                 Distributed: Wednesday, March 25, 2009
                       Message Id: cdl-22-54-002
Received on Friday, 20 March, 2009

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