Objects conservators work with a huge range of items from the History, Māori, Pacific, Sculpture, and Natural History Collections. The size of these items can vary, from Te Hau ki Turanga (the meeting house in the Mana Whenua exhibition) and large canoes and pieces of furniture down to fish hooks, tiny pieces of jewellery, and insect specimens.
These collections include both organic (wood, plant materials, bone, shell, horn, tortoiseshell, leather, and skin) and inorganic materials (metals, ceramics, glass, and stone). Identification is important as different materials can have widely differing requirements in terms of storage and care.
For many of these collections, cultural considerations are important. Sometimes the objects conservators need to work with community groups or iwi (tribes) to decide which treatment option is most appropriate.
Some items in these collections present serious hazards for the conservators, such as specimens treated in the past with arsenic or mercury, poison-tipped arrows, or mould spores. Special equipment and safety precautions are used to protect the conservators.