Removing adhesive from installed artifacts

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    • #133342
      Wendi Murray

      Our museum is currently undergoing a major expansion and we are de-installing exhibits that were put in place in the early 1990s. I have found that many of our archaeological artifacts were mounted to the bottoms of educational pull-out drawers with some kind of adhesive for which we have no records – not sure if it is glue or quake wax. Any suggestions on how to safely remove glue from bone and ceramic artifacts? Will mineral spirits applied with a Q-tip damage these materials?

    • #133344

      Mineral spirits are unlikely to do much, but you can try. If it’s wax, a thin flexible spatula slid underneath should work. I would hope that by the 1990’s no one in museums was using adhesives to stick down collection material, but I may be overly optimistic! Neither bone nor ceramics should be bothered by solvents, unless the bone was impregnated or coated with a resin. If it isn’t wax, the next most likely thing is something like Duco cement. If that’s it, a few drops from an eye dropper should at least start to dissolve it after a few minutes. If there’s a lot of adhesive, you can wet a cotton ball with the solvent, shove it up against the adhesive, and put aluminum foil around it so the solvent can do its work.

    • #133343
      Kory Berrett

      Objects waxed in place might also let go with a twisting motion. Be careful with the solvent approach though. If the ceramics are low-fired earthenware types, or if they are unglazed, they will be porous and can absorb liquids, including the diluted adhesive, to become stained. Stoneware or porcelain are non-porous and pretty much stain proof (though not entirely.)

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