Statues are best stored in dry areas where there is good air circulation.
Mildew spores which thrive in damp conditions will migrate to plaster statues if stored in such an area. Mildew is a black coloured fungus which will also find its way through layers of paint, once embedded in plaster, it is difficult, sometimes impossible to eradicate. (See image below)
Plaster readily absorbs moisture, and statues stored in damp conditions will eventually perish. Internal irons which are surrounded by damp plaster will corrode. The corrosion will expand with the limbs of the figure and cause it to crack. Eventually the limb will split apart. The example below is an extreme case..
Storage in damp conditions cause salts within the plaster will rise to the surface. These salts are able to loosen paint layers, and weaken the plaster substrate, rendering the figures fraible and sponge - like.
From Storage to stable.
If figures have parts which protrude - such as extended arms which hold lamps or censors - they must be lifted either by the base, under their arms or from the waist.
Avoid lifting statues by the head, as this puts all the weight on the neck causing it to break. Poor handling and storage are the main causes of damage to nativity statues.
For transporting figures from storage to stable, a long sturdy board with wheels affixed to corners (rather like a large flat skate board) can be a boon for wheeling figures to the pint of display.
If possible nativity figures should be stored at a height which is easily accessible. Preferably on shelves at floor level if they are very heavy or difficult to handle.
Storing on shelves that are shoulder height and above, is not recommended. Use of step -ladders to retrieve figures can be perilous to humans as well as statuary.
Its best to check the condition of nativity figures each year before putting them into storage, and if necessary call the restorers! That way you are assured they will be at their best for their next public appearance.
Because of their decorative nature, they do need careful handling and storage. The plaster busts of antiquity have endured for centuries, and given the right care, your statues can also last indefinitely.
Extending the display life of ornamental crib statues...
Liturgical artist/restorer. Bachelor of Art and Design, Catholic Blogger
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