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Preserving Objects as Historical Evidence

Collecting, exhibiting and interpreting objects and cultural assets as historical evidence is one of the most important functions of a museum, as is the preservation of such objects and assets.

The Museum at the Berlin-Gatow airfield has a restoration hangar at its disposal in which up to four aircraft can be restored simultaneously. The restoration work is directed by a graduated restorer (technical control) and by an officer engineer of the Bundeswehr (organizational control). The workshops are staffed by aircraft technicians, varnishers, a female carpenter, a locksmith and other specialists.

Together, they look after the Museum's major items of defense equipment and the vast number of smaller objects in the collection (e.g. uniforms, pieces of equipment or paintings). They also produce packaging required for transportation and storage.

Preventive measures must be taken to avoid damage caused by light, moisture, material deterioration or insect pests. In many cases, an exhibit must be returned to its historically authentic condition by conservation and restoration measures before it can be shown to visitors to the Museum.

What is important in the work of the restoration crew is that any object must keep its own history. The identity of an aircraft, for instance, must not be altered through repainting or conversion. This is particularly difficult in the case of major items that are displayed outside. Over the years, they require continuous conservation and permanent maintenance.

In order to meet the complex requirements of the extensive collection with its wide variety of materials, the restoration workshop of the Museum maintains contact with specialists all over the world. Together with the Berlin University of Technology and Economics and the Institute of Materials Science at the Otto-von-Guericke University of Magdeburg, the Museum is conducting research into key problems in the preservation of major items of equipment.