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When is restoring an artifact a good idea?

To start this blog I would like start a conversation on restoration, repair, refinishing and conservation. A rose by any other name….. I personally have not altered any piece that has come in to my possession. I do not feel qualified or set up to do restoration work. I worry about any damage I could cause the piece. I have some dug items I should try and conserve, but setting up for that is beyond my skills right now.

This inevitably leads to the age old question of patina versus shiny. The British Officers pot below is from my personal collection and is the living example of both schools. The inside has been cleaned and shined up to show off the beautiful dovetail construction and the exterior remains in its natural state. The pot also had a life in an American house for many years after the war and was just another kitchen item and continued to be cleaned. In this case I think this pot is not harmed at all by being polished just continued on with its life for many years.

I was told recently by a long time collector to repair a cheesebox canteen by replacing the leather strap holders on the side with some old 19th c. leather he had. I would deem this way too far.

I have also included a British bayonet in all its shiny glory. I had a darkened Brown Bess bayonet in the past and found it to be just as attractive as a polished one. European and British collectors prefer the shinier, well-polished Items and American leave them alone more often. In many situations its up to you.

In the end as with all things, it is in the eyes of beholder, but I will continue to leave my pieces in the state that I find. I will save for next time continued thoughts on conservation when it goes too far. I am having a very, very early American vellum conserved, mounted and framed by the very best artisan in the country. I will post a nice long post when that gets done. I never would have ventured to do touch it myself.