Preservation Week Day 5: Preserving Modeling Equipment

This is the seventh post in a week-long series celebrating National Preservation Week.  NMAM blog posts in this series will discuss how to preserve your own modeling history. 

Model engines and radio control equipment are fun to collect.  There’s also all those old building and flying supplies you’re not sure what to do with.  As sturdy as these might look, however, they need some specialized care to keep them at their best.

Start with:
1.  Keep them in a place which is fairly dry.  Metal can corrode in an environment high in humidity. 
2.  Handle them with gloves.  It is incredibly easy to leave visible finger prints on metal (especially trophies). 

Fingerprints are etched into this model airplane fuel tank.
Dirt and oils on your hands can leave visible fingerprints on metal surfaces.
Source: National Model Aviation Museum, Found in Collection, 2007.01.174.

3.  Support them well when handling.  Especially for trophies, don’t pick them up by the handles or protruding parts.  Instead, support them from underneath and always use both hands.
4.  Resist the urge to make it look like new again.  In all cases over-cleaning can cause irreversible damage to metal. 
      a.  Only clean the worst of the grime from engines; often a layer of oil left on the engine will help prevent future corrosion.
      b.  Don’t use any chemical cleaning products on radio equipment or trophies.  To clean these, dust carefully with a soft brush.  It’s even better if you get the vacuum out and brush the dust into the nozzle. 

Lightly brushing dust directly into the vacuum hose means the dust has less of a chance to recirculate back into the air.
Lightly brushing dust directly into the vacuum hose means the dust has less of a chance to recirculate back into the air.
This trophy was cleaned with improper chemicals, resulting in the loss of information.
Improper cleaning can result in damage to metal surfaces, as well as the loss of valuable information.
Source: National Model Aviation Museum, Found in Collection, 2009.01.01

5.  Keep anything you’re not showing off boxed, or wrapped in clean, unbleached muslin.  That will help keep the dust off, meaning you have to clean them less often.
6.  Remove any batteries.  It is best to bring your batteries to your local hazardous material drop-off site – just in case.

Go a bit further:
1.  Purchase acid-free boxes from a museum products supplier like Gaylord or Hollinger Metal Edge

A trophy boxed and supported with acid-free tissue.
Properly supporting and boxing trophies is a great idea, especially for those that are in fragile condition.
Source: National Model Aviation Museum, Found in Collection, 2012.01.11.

2.  The activated carbon available for fish tank filters is great to place in the area where you have these objects stored as it absorbs impurities in the air that could be causing corrosion.  Don’t, however, let it come in contact with your object.
3.  Display your trophies and other memorabilia in vitrines like these.

Learn more:
The Australian National Maritime Museum has a helpful guide for caring for metal objects.
For those whose personal collections contact plastic items, the Institute of Conservation has a helpful guide.

If you want more advice on preserving your modeling equipment, feel free to ask your questions to the museum’s blog, Facebook page, or by emailing staff directly at

Preservation Week - pass it onSponsored by the ALA’s Association for Library Collections and Technical Services and partner organizations, Preservation Week will inspire actions to preserve personal, family and community collections of all kinds, as well as library, museum and archive collections. It will raise awareness of the role libraries and other cultural institutions can play in providing ongoing preservation information. More information can be found at:

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