Part of the treasurer's job description is accounting for all the "stuff" your group owns. Everything from the soup ladles to the crowns and coronets is (supposed to be) on a property list somewhere. Regalia (expensive ceremonial items that don't wear out) is listed on a form every quarter, property with a purchase value over a certain amount is listed also (but on a different form.)
If your group owns few things, you are probably keeping the property list (1 pot - stored at Ldy. Grizzly's.) If your group owns many things, it may be time to start thinking about a deputy. A deputy in charge of "stuff" (propertymaster, quartermaster, be creative in the title!) can devote more time to keeping track of it and caring for it than the treasurer.
Sometimes the "stuff" is not treated well. Often due to carelessness, sometimes due to ignorance of proper care methods, and even occasionally by Acts of God and nature. Thrones have been dumped in the backs of pickups and have been rained upon. Crowns have been placed on the roofs of cars and the owners have driven off only to notice when the symbol of the monarchy flies off at 50+ miles per hour. Banners have been packed away soaking wet after camping events only to have their surface become green and furry. Scepters and orbs have been tossed loose into the trunk of a car and then squashed by 40 lbs of plate armor. Nevertheless, it is important that we preserve these items and make them last as long as possible so that the future monarchs of the Society can have the same fine, carefully crafted pieces of regalia that our current monarchs have.
Hereafter follows some basic information about care in general, as well as individual instructions for care of crowns and other metal items, leather items, wood items, cloth items, and miscellaneous objects. These instructions should get you through in a pinch, but an experienced craftsperson should be consulted if there is time to do a proper job of repair or maintenance. If you have any doubts about your skills or ability to provide the necessary time to maintain the regalia entrusted to your care, find someone else willing to be responsible to care for these items, and make them your deputy. Most (if not all) of this information was double checked with the Northern States Conservation Center's web site
One of the most arduous tasks around is the constant polishing of crowns and coronets. Many of these are made from brass and as such; they tarnish while you watch. Some people have suggested that brass crowns be coated in a clear varnish. This is generaly a BAD idea. Varnishes run and splotch and rarely look invisible. The varnish can be scratched easily leaving tarnished streaks and will soon make the crowns look cheap and shoddy. This also makes crowns difficult to repair, as all of the varnish needs to be removed before a stone setting can be repaired or a solder joint or a crack can be mended.
Most polishing can be avoided if the metal is wiped down with a soft cloth before being packed away. An overall patina is not nearly as noticeable as a set of fingerprints where the "hat" is adjusted all day. Polishing is removing the top layer of metal that shows a chemical reaction. Especially when dealing with modern plated objects, repeated polishing will leave you with the underlying metal exposed.
When polishing brass or other metals, it is best to use a non-abrasive polish. Brasso and Comet Copper Cleanser are poor choices. The goal is to find something non-abrasive, not too harsh and controllable. This last is of prime importance, as one of the signs of a hurried polish job is dried polish in the crevices. In my experience, a cream polish worked into a soft cloth gives the most control. You don't need a lot of polish, elbow grease is needed. Creams I've used with good results: Flitz, Mother's Mag Wheel & Aluminum Polish. Many people swear by Never-Dull, a liquid-soaked cotton wadding. On flat surfaces it's fine, but the liquid is hard to control when polishing intricate things. If that's all you have, try wrapping a piece of the wadding in a soft cloth to absorb the liquid :-) For how the professionals do it:
THE CARE AND PRESERVATION OF Historical Brass and Bronze
When dealing with ferrous metals (iron or steel), it is an absolute must for the piece to be coated in oil or wax to prevent rust. Rust is the worst enemy of ferrous regalia. It will pit and discolor the piece and will forever damage the finish unless it is protected.
Waxes are preferable over oils for most regalia. Oil can be messy and is easily wiped off, whereas wax will be significantly less messy and more durable. Most museums prefer carnauba wax for their fine pieces. Renaissance Wax (or other "microcrystalline" waxes) is prefered by museums because it is inert and will not yellow over time. If you are unable to find this product, you can use something as common as a car polish with carnuba wax. A soft car polish may be all you need, as the solvents that make the wax soft and spreadable will also help clean the object. Just follow the directions carefully and buff!
For short term storage and transportation: Use a box made of wood or other sturdy material, and line with fabric over foam. It may be more convenient to be able to store more than one set of crowns in a box. Don't make the boxes too big or heavy, they still have to be carried around. Two small boxes may be better than one huge box.
For long-term storage: Wipe the metal down with a soft cloth and wear cotton gloves to handle the item. The oils found on skin can literally etch into the metal (think a permanent record of fingerprints.) Unless it is badly (and unevenly) tarnished, it is not necessary to "polish" an item before packing for storage; the existing (light and even) tarnish (think of it as a patina) will act as a protective barrier in storage. A box for long-term storage should not be made out of plywood or particle board as the adhesives can accelerate metal deterioration. Seal the interior wood surfaces with lacquer or polyurethane (not latex paint.) Glues, commonly found foam and newsprint should also be avoided. Padding made out of natural fibers, pure polyester fibers or inert foam should not affect the metal.
To minimize tarnish during storage: The goal is to control the environment inside the box. Humidity and contaminants are what make tarnish (oxygen makes a patina, which is different.) Companies such as 3M and Pacific make strips and cloths that absorb sulfur (an airborne contaminant) and silica gel or activated charcoal will absorb humidity. Both the sulfur and humidity "absorbers" will eventually need to be replaced. A bag made out of a silver cloth will provide a fair amount of protection for metal items. You may use an archival quality sealing bag to store metal in (not a standard "zipping" bag and never plastic wrap), wrap the pieces in cloth first to protect the item and prevent the bag from tearing. Do not use rubber bands to hold things, cotton strips will look better and not leave nasty tarnish lines.
The biggest rule is "Don't polish the gems with the metal polish!". This goes for all gems, but most especially the softer, cheaper gems that are most common in regalia. Gems should be wiped clean with a soft cloth. Water can damage some gems, and cause the silvering to peel from the back of fakes. Storage rules are the same as for metals (see above), humidity can harm some gemstones. Individual bags or containers should be made for small pieces to protect them during storage and transport.
Licensed jewelers will usually inspect for damage at no charge. Don't be shy; they love seeing regalia, and it isn't uncommon for them to see gem-encrusted stuff. They can also do appraisals for insurance purposes. Tell them you are with a 501(c)(3) organization.
For many years the recommendation has been that leather items should be "dressed" (treated with an oil or wax based dressing) on a regular basis. Lanolin or Neetsfoot oil are traditional, there is an 'archival' mixture of lanolin and neetsfoot oil available from supply houses that works well. In recent years this practice has been questioned for museums, but for our purposes (leather that is used in field conditions) dressing is still a good idea to protect (if not to preserve) the leather.
To clean leather, first try brushing the object. If neccessary, use a mild soap and water such as Murphy's Oil Soap or a basic saddle soap. Use a soft cloth so as not to scratch the finish of the leather. Let the object dry throughly and reapply dressing.
More than anything, it is important to keep leather dry. If something gets wet, don't let it remain wet or sit in an enclosed space such as the trunk of a car for any length of time. Do not force leather to dry quickly by heating it - this will damage the object. Even a blow dryer can damage the leather and remove valuable oils. Simply set it in a warm dry place.
Wooden objects should be treated in a similar manner to leather ones. They should be cleaned and kept as dry as possible. Cleaning should be done when needed, use as little water as possible (an oil soap is probably ok) and then they can be waxed with a good furniture polish. Be aware that if you use a silicon wax, it may be a permanent choice. Like leather, it is important to keep wood dry. If something gets wet, don't let it remain wet or sit in an enclosed space for too long. And, like leather, do not force the wood to dry quickly by heating it.
Thrones and other large items. Use canvas bags to keep them dry and safe from being gouged or scratched. Try to have thrones that break down into flat pieces for easier packing. Make sure to have some smaller bags for the small pieces, preferably with labeled with the items and quantity to minimize losses.
Small cloth items should by divided into two categories (machine wash and dry clean only) and they should be permanently labeled as to which category they belong.
Objects that are only dry-cleanable should be treated exactly like your best clothes and taken to a professional cleaner. You may get some strange looks when you bring in a 30' tall hand embroidered 12th century banner, but it is better than the dirty looks (or fatal looks) that you will get from the person who made it when they discover that you destroyed it in your washing machine. The cost is allowable as an expense.
Washable items should be treated like normal clothes (remember to separate your colors). If your regalia has colors that tend to fade or bleed (like the Midrealm banners with the red stripe on the white field), then you may want to hand wash them or wash them in cold water in the delicate cycle of your machine. For cotton items, adding ordinary table salt to the wash water may help set the dye.
Rugs and many other things can be vacuumed (with a hose, not a rotary brush), this will often remove an astounding amount of dirt.
Bags of some sturdy fabric like canvas or heavy corduroy will help banners, pillows and other fabric items clean during transportation and storage.
Pavilions and shade flys should be packed away dry. If packed wet, they should be set up and allowed to dry as soon as possible. Dirt can be removed (usually) with a garden hose. Use canvas bags to store stakes, ropes, roof and walls. Poles can be painted or placed in canvas bags.
Some general suggestions for mildew/mold: Mold spreads with spores, so try to work on the item outside, away from other things. Remove as much as you can with a broom (be sure to wash the broom afterwards.) Vacuum (with a hose, not a rotary brush!) the item, and throw away the now mold filled bag. Dry the item thoroughly, heat (particularly sun) and air will help stop mold growth. If the item is washable, washing and treating with fungicides may help, remember to read the product contents and instructions and to color test a small area of the item before applying chemicals.
Candles should be kept in a cool dry place so they won't melt (a cooler works well).
Objects made of glass, paper, ceramics, feathers, eggs, etc. should simply be treated carefully. These pieces may well be the most fragile bits of regalia in the possession of the branch. They should be kept clean and dry, and transported in such a way as to limit the possibility of breakage. If they get dusty, a soft paintbrush or makeup brush can be used to remove the dust.
Do not use crumpled newspaper as packing material as the ink will get on the items and flimsy paper quickly loses its protective ability. Bubble wrap (available from the post office or office supply stores) works much better. Best would be to make containers, and use closed-cell foam (cut and glued to shape) as padding.
For just secure storage and occasional moves, bubble wrap is probably fine, but once around is not enough for decent protection. Wrap the item two or three times, tape the wrap shut in at least two places, and make sure that all sides are covered, even if it means cutting out circles and placing them within the ends of the already-wound main wrap. Tape the ends on to ensure they don't fall off.
If an object breaks while it is in service, the current possessor should contact you for guidance. Don't try to repair it yourself unless you are an expert in the craft with which the object was made. Well-meaning but incorrect repairs have often been the cause of much damage to pieces of regalia. While it may temporarily fix the problem, it may be of long term detriment to the proper functioning and repair of the item. Even something as simple as a piece of duct tape can strip the finish from wood or leather and can leave a permanent stain on a cloth item.
The original maker should be contacted and asked to do the repair. If this is impossible, then some other suitable artisan should be sought. A good place to start is by looking at the mailing list of the Laurels in the Kingdom and seeing if they would like to do the repair or if they are able to recommend someone who can. At the very least, an expert should be contacted for guidance before attempting a repair. Remember, two heads are better than one, someone else may come up with something that a you may not have thought of on your own.
For Emergency Situations: The first guideline is not to do anything that can't be undone. Another guideline to remember is the repair material should not be stronger than the original - don't use fishing line to repair a cotton banner. Emergency repairs should only attempt to stabilize the item for transport to an expert.