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Caring for Inuit Art

What you need to know about caring for Inuit Art Sculptures and Inuit Art Prints. Now that you have chosen your treasure, there are a few things you can do to ensure your traditional Inuit art will maintain its beauty for years to come.

Handle your stone sculpture with care to avoid scratches (e.g. from jewellery) or breakage.

When moving your carving, carefully support it with non-slippery, latex gloves.

To clean, dust with a soft cloth or use a soft paint brush to dust away dirt embedded in crevices.

Every effort should be made to prevent the exposure of bone, antler and ivory pieces to extreme or rapid fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity.  These types of sculptures should be kept away from doorways, air/heat vents, the tops of appliances (TVs and radios), hot light sources, fireplaces, exterior walls, cold windows and direct sunlight.  Ivory, in particular, reacts like wood to changing humidity levels by swelling and shrinking.  This can cause the piece to crack and warp. 

These objects are very porous and can stain if they come in contact with coloured materials or corroded metals such as iron and copper.  Stains of this nature would require the services of a professional conservator for restoration.

For regular cleaning, lightly dust these items with a soft brush.  If your ivory or  smooth, non-porous bone sculpture requires a more thorough cleaning, simply use a cotton swab, a little water and a mild soap such as Ivory Snow.  Rinse with clear water, but please take care to dry the surface within 15-20 seconds with another cotton swab.  

Never soak a piece of bone or ivory in water or any other liquid, and avoid applying  water to cracked or porous surfaces of any object.

Over the years, ivory and bone may take on a brownish yellow appearance which can  be quite attractive. This is a natural patina – do not attempt to bleach it out.

Prints should be displayed in areas where they won’t be exposed to too much direct sunlight or artificial light.  Ultraviolet light can cause paper to become brittle, and colours to fade and change.  Light damage can be reduced by using plexiglass instead of regular glass.  It is important, however, that your print doesn’t come  in contact with the glass or plexiglass, as they condense moisture from the air.  The print may stick to the glass and be ruined. Avoid temperature and humidity extremes by displaying your prints in a clean, well-ventilated area.  Ideal temperatures are between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  High humidity can cause mold (small dark spots) while low humidity may cause the paper to become brittle.  Rapid changes in humidity may also cause a print to buckle.

Dust and pollution can be harmful to prints.  Finger smudges, dirt, or dents and tears can affect the value of your print negatively.  If you must handle an unframed print, make sure you wear soft, clean cotton gloves (available at most craft stores) or with very clean hands, lift it diagonally (by opposite corners) to avoid creasing.  Your hands contain oils that can stain a print over time, causing it to either lose value or render it valueless, depending on the extent of the damage.

Framing is very important to preserving a print.  Ensure you choose a reputable framer who is knowledge-able on the use of proper archival framing materials and techniques.  Use of special acid-free or ph-neutral materials will ensure that the paper or inks of the print will not be altered or destroyed by the acids contained in regular cardboard mattes and wooden backing boards.