In Objects Conservation: This 19th C carved wooden box is in the lab undergoing conservation before display in an upcoming reinstallation of our South Asian Art Galleries. The sandalwood box was covered in a black soot like grime that darkened the surface and obscured the carved details. To remove this heavy grime several methods of cleaning were used. First, a compressor with a fine nozzle on low pressure was used with a vacuum to remove any loose particles and to clear out recessed areas in the carving. Next smoke cleaning sponges, seen on the left of the box, were used to remove grime that was more ingrained in the wood. You can see in the photo that the sponges, which start out a pale-yellow color, were turned black from the soot during cleaning! For any soot that could not be removed by the sponges, a natural malleable rubber called Groom Stick is used. The sticky Groom Stick easily removes any spots of soiling remaining on the surface. Using this tiered method of cleaning ensures that the minimal amount of abrasion is used to remove dirt, protecting the delicate carvings. The nest step will be to repair the locking mechanism and a broken interior divider.
Box, 19th Century, India, sandalwood, Museum Purchase, 1889.366