Tips for Displaying Antiques & Collectibles in Your Home

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Collectors love to show off their collections. They are typically the proud focal point in the room.  But collectors and decorators also want to make sure the valuable items are safely protected too.

How you best display your collectibles in your home is primarily based on the type of collectibles themselves and the materials they are made of. But there are some general rules that apply to anything from great grandmother’s antique hand-painted china to grandpa’s vintage fishing lures.

Shelving & Shelves

When buying furniture for displaying your collection, listen to the pros at Gorman’s and look for high quality, sturdy and stable, shelving units, curio cabinets, and breakfronts. The material the shelves are made of may also matter.

You’ve likely heard about using acid-free paper and boxes for storing items. The principle here is to protect items from the acid, lignin, which may cause acid burning or tanning. As lignin is naturally found in wood this means that wooden shelves themselves can cause damage to any objects placed on them. According to Inherited Values, a few layers of acid-free paper or unbleached muslin is a good barrier of protection. However, glass shelves are another solution — and they are easier to dust than paper or cloth.

When opting for glass shelves, be sure to consider the weight of the individual object in your collection as well as the collection itself. A single plate may not weigh much, but a stack of china plates is quite heavy. With heavy items it is important to make sure glass shelves are made of stronger tempered glass.

Protect From the Light

Any collectible, made from anything — from natural wood to manufactured plastics — suffers with exposure to UV rays. Direct sunlight is the most damaging, but florescent and incandescent lighting can also be a threat. Bright light can fade and discolor paper, wood, textiles, and even plastics, so opting for enclosed curio cabinets and hutches with glass with ultra-violet filters is recommended. Being so enclosed also helps prevent your objects from dust and dirt — as well as prevents accidents in busy homes with children and pets who do not always follow the house rules.

However, if the display cabinet has built-in lighting, you will want to invest in bulbs with UV filters. Even then, you will want lighting that can be turned off easily when such lighting isn’t necessary for viewing.

Because lighting can also create a lot of heat, you also want to make sure your enclosed glass curio with built-in lighting has proper ventilation. Heat degrades many materials, and some old plastics, like celluloid, can melt and even ignite a fire. Ventilation is also important as humid conditions can lead to growth of mildew, mold, and fungus.

Placement of Objects

Some collections can be quite large, but remember not to overload shelves. This is not only important for the stress of weight placed on shelves, but crowding items is dangerous. It makes dusting of items difficult and provides other risks. Objects which touch one another risk rubbing, scratching, snagging, and crushing one another due to vibrations from activity in the home.

Active homes, such as those with children and pets, as well as apartments and houses in areas near subways, trains, and earthquake activity face other potential dangers. Museums use special products to secure objects and avoid having them fall off shelves and walls. These adhesives are called museum putty, museum wax, and museum gel. Each is specially designed to keep ceramic, wood, and glass objects as safe from damage as the furniture and walls they sit upon.

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