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The National Trust for Scotland cares for hundreds of thousands of historic items on public display. These objects or artefacts are the collections, unique to each Trust property, which reflect the history and taste of those who lived there – whether in an imposing castle or a modest cottage.

The Trust's statutory responsibilities include the preservation of this vast range of artefacts in its care, ensuring that future generations can enjoy and appreciate them to the full. This responsibility is made more challenging because most Trust collections are on open display in their original historic room settings, and not displayed behind protective glass.

The Trust's conservators understand the behaviour of the different materials which make up an object or historic surface, and know how best to care for them. Textiles, sculpture, paintings, furniture, silverware, wallpapers, leather-bound books, watercolours and marble floors are examples of materials with different needs for their care.

The Trust's approach is that ‘prevention is better than cure', an age-old saying which can be applied as equally to historic artefacts through preventive conservation as to humans through preventive healthcare. But, as our bodies may from time to time need surgery or medication, so too historic artefacts may need interventive conservation treatments to ensure they remain in good condition.

The Trust commissions accredited conservators to carry out these interventive, or remedial, conservation treatments to its magnificent historic interiors and collections. The conservator assesses the condition of the object or collections and provides treatment options, which are then considered in the context of the historic room or decorative scheme as a whole. Such treatments could include cleaning, stabilising or reconstructing.

It is however proven that preventive conservation is the most cost-effective strategy for the long-term care of historic interiors and collections. To prevent damage and slow down deterioration to the historic interiors and collections in its care, the Trust's methods include:

  • providing internal environments with stable and appropriate ranges of temperature and Relative Humidity
  • limiting and managing the extent of irreversible damage caused by visible light and UV radiation
  • monitoring and controlling insect pest activity
  • putting physical protection in place to protect historic surfaces, such as druggets on floors and carpets.

Whether preventive or interventive, every conservation treatment or activity is fully documented and recorded.