On December 22nd, I had the unique opportunity to lead a workshop at the National Museum of Pakistan in Karachi, the city in which I spent most of my childhood. Arranged by the Mohatta Palace Museum, the workshop included nine attendees from institutions across the city, representing the Liaquat Memorial Library, the Sindh Archives, and the National Museum itself.
Anyone who has lived or worked in a developing country knows that resources usually have an inverse relationship with need, and Pakistan is no different. The National Museum, for instance, has a fantastic collection, but the conservation lab has been neglected in recent years. There is a desire to re-establish it, but in the meantime, a bigger challenge is the lack of environmental controls. Karachi is a port city located on the Arabian Sea: the climate is hot and humid, and the wind carries salt from the sea. In short, the climate is exactly what is least optimal for a museum collection!
With these things in mind, I structured my lecture to focus on those things that can be done without expensive equipment: regular dusting of collections, running fans to lower humidity, exercising care when handling objects. We had procured acid free board from a local framer and using this, I demonstrated how to make a basic wedge to support open books for use or display. Everyone had the opportunity to make their own wedges, and then I led them through the construction of phase boxes.
It was great to be able to close out the year by sharing what I’ve learned with colleagues committed to preserving Pakistan’s cultural heritage. I left the museum at the end of the day filled with respect for their dedication and determination… and making plans for next time, whenever that may happen to be.
Many thanks to the staff of the Mohatta Palace Museum and the National Museum of Pakistan, without whose support this workshop could not have taken place.