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Midnight Cleaning Preserves Precious Objects

Contractors dusting airmail beacon in the lobby of the museum
Contractors dusting airmail beacon 

Cleaning objects in the museum’s collection is one of the simplest ways to decrease deterioration and elongate their life span. Even if the physical act of cleaning an artifact is simple, reaching the objects can often present a challenge. The artifacts that fall on this list are the three planes, carriage, mail train car, and beacon found in the museum’s atrium. These objects are so large that it is impossible and or unsafe to clean them with a ladder. So, once a year the museum hires contractors and a JLF Lift to come in and clean the 6 objects. In order to not disrupt a visitor’s experience, the cleaning begins right after the museum closes.

First, they have to get the lift into position by not only having to maneuver a large lift through the atrium around exhibits at the same time placing sheet under the lift to protect the marble floors. All of which is no small task! Once in position, a contractor raises the lift armed with a vacuum, rags and dusters and begins the tedious task of cleaning the air planes, train car, carriage and beacon. August 25th & 26th of 2009 from 5:30pm to 2:00am the contractors worked.

a man vacuuming a red wagon in the museum's lobby
Vacuuming carriage 

This task is tedious because of the size and delicate nature of these objects. There are many parts and crevices where dust can gather. It is important that the contractor take their time to make sure the job is done right without any damage to the object. This is why it took approximately 16 hours to clean 6 items. By cleaning these objects they will last for many years to be enjoyed by visitors. We will continue to do this every year to keep the objects healthy.

 

For more information

 NPMPreservation@si.edu