Preservation on the Fast Track
by Kyle Jansson
Most heritage organizations preserve objects, documents and buildings for the long term, but also sometimes need to make fast decisions about how to do that. One organization is facing that dilemma this week and is looking for professional advice.
The item in question is a wagon wheel that was found submerged in a river in eastern Oregon. Approximately three feet in diameter, it has wood spokes with metal around the outer wheel. Currently, it is being stored under water in a “kiddie pool” until a more appropriate preservation can be instituted.
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, which has the wheel, has limited experience with this type of object. The likelihood that the wheel has been underwater for a century or more adds additional complexity to its preservation.The department’s staff is wrestling with exactly what type of wheel it is and how best to preserve it. Among its questions:
1. Is it possible to determine the age of the wheel and, if so, what are the key clues? Is it significant or rare?
2. How do you determine what type of wagon it came from?
3. What are the best short-term preservation options that will help it keep its shape and integrity?
4. What are the best long-term preservation options?
The department would like to hear information that will help it answer these questions, and you can do that by commenting to this post. You can even give clues on how your organization would successfully respond to an immediate preservation issue like this.
About the author: Kyle Jansson is the coordinator of the Oregon Heritage Commisison.