Princess bedroom

What is preventive conservation?

Kathryn Hallett, Preventive Conservation Manager, explains what it means for Historic Royal Palaces.

When it comes to preserving the palaces’ interiors and their objects, preventive conservation is a development of what is still widely known in the world of heritage as ‘good housekeeping’.

Preventing harm

As the name suggests, our conservators' aim is to prevent any harm coming to the palaces’ objects by taking precautions against damage. These are widely known as the 'agents of decay' and commonly include:

  • Direct physical forces
  • Theft and vandalism
  • Fire
  • Water
  • Pests
  • Contaminants such as dust
  • Radiation (light)
  • Incorrect temperature
  • Incorrect relative humidity
  • Disassociation

Dust, for example, is commonly perceived to be relatively harmless, if unsightly, but it is actually quite damaging to a variety of objects in different ways. 

It absorbs moisture and pollutants and can serve as food for pests and if left, can cement itself to a hard surface, making it impossible to remove. So rather than waiting to act until an object is in need of repair or restoration, preventive conservators regularly remove dust before its effects are felt.

Countering the agents of decay

We also work to counter the other common causes of damage. We control the amount of light either by using blinds or by applying ultra violet film to the windows.

We regularly monitor insect and other pest activity. We also use radiators with conservation thermostats to regulate the humidity and temperature surrounding the collections. 

One might say a preventive conservator could be compared to a nutritionist, providing a balanced diet for a healthy lifestyle.

Find out more

Ask the conservators

Ask the conservatorsLook for our conservators around the palaces wearing ‘Ask the Conservators’ badges. They’ll be happy to tell you about what they’re doing to conserve the palaces’ collections and to answer your questions.

Supporting us

Palace upkeep is expensive work and as an independent charity we receive no funding from the Government or the Crown. We depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors. 

Become a member, donor or volunteer

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