How do we slow the signs of aging?

While this may sound like a skin care ad, it’s not – this is preventative conservation museum-style. When it comes to slowing the aging process of our clothing collection at the Air Force Museum there are several principles we follow – it is all about preventing damage, without the use of any anti-aging miracle creams.

The first rule of thumb is that light is not your friend, and exposure to UV rays over time will cause fading to fabric. To combat this we place our clothing in the dark, by covering or boxing items so they are safe from any light attack.

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Tyvek covers are used on hanging garments, like Service Dress Jackets and Great Coats.
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Boxed Flight Helmets

Using the right type of packaging is also crucial, we use tyvek, acid free tissue and acid free card to store our collection as these materials remain chemically stable over time and don’t emit any damaging acids. We also support clothing so is maintains its original shape and is not exposed to any new stresses (or damaging folds) while it is in storage.

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Pair of high heel wedding shoes, in a storage box. Note the acid free tissue providing support maintain the original shape.

Environmental factors can also influence the conservation of our clothing collection.   Fluctuations in humidity can cause clothing fibres to swell when the humidity is high and shrink when it is low causing unnecessary damage. High humidity can also create the ideal environment for mould growth and high temperatures generally accelerate the natural chemical decay of materials. Luckily our stores are naturally cool, so we control the humidity within our stores (as best we can) by using our trusty dehumidifiers. This helps keep the clothing storage room within a stable range of 50% humidity and 20C.

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One of our dehumidifiers on the job to keep clothing store humidity at optimum level.

Finally, the key thing we do to prevent damage is handle our clothing collection like gold! We use gloves to stop any of the natural oils and impurities that are on our hands transferring onto the surface of our items.

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Nitrile gloves worn to protect these flight suits from greasy hands.
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Mark 3 and Mark 5 Flight Suits awaiting their new Tyvek covers.

By following all these preventative conservation principles, we are ensuring that future generations will be able to enjoy the real RNZAF clothing story!