Reply To: Care of outdoor wooden bench


I’m not sure you want to know what I think, but you did ask. Let’s rephrase the request – which is one I get sadly often from museums and heritage bodies –

Hello, we have an object which is valuable to us and fragile. We wish to keep it in a position which we know threatens its existence. We are not prepared to raise funds to look after it or consider alternative locations/uses. Please tell us how to beat both Mother Nature and Father Time (aka the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics) and enable it to be preserved for ever. P.S. We don’t like the sound of anything labor-intensive either.

Does that sound familiar? I’m sorry if it sounds a little grumpy, it isn’t meant to be, but we do need to stop and ask ourselves what it is we want.
How about a couple of questions that might help produce a plan of action ?

How much would consulting a conservator cost ? A lot of times museums tell me they can’t afford a conservator, although they have no idea what a conservator can do or what they would charge.

What is the bench made of and what is its construction? This can dramatically affect possible treatments and survival.

How long does the museum wish the article to survive in its current form? If the museum is prepared for it to be disposed of after 3 – 5 years, then keep it out of doors and don’t worry. Don’t let people sit on it unless it is regularly checked for strength, though.

Is the museum prepared to undertake regular maintenance? Any varnish or wood preservative applied to enable it to be placed out of doors will have to be reapplied or possibly removed and replaced.

If the museum cannot undertake what is necessary for the longterm survival of the item, and does not wish it to be destroyed by its conditions in a relatively short period, has the museum considered finding it alternative ownership?

If the museum really wishes to preserve the item I would recommend
1) ask a conservator what it would cost to treat the item to give it the best chance of survival
2) ask people in the museum: staff, the Museum Friends group (and even visitors) about alternatives – maybe someone can suggest a better location or help with storage
3) ask the community what they would like to have happen to the piece and to fundraise for this. A bake sale can raise enough funds to pay for professional conservation, museum equipment, even a store.

I hope this helps. Good luck with the bench.