The collection of the Deutsches Historisches Museum has its roots in the holdings of the old Zeughaus or Prussian Armoury, which were part of the collections of the former Museum für Deutsche Geschichte and focussed on military history. A history museum is not just limited to one area, however, and today our holdings not only include military equipment from the Middle Ages to the present day, but also encompass everyday objects and the applied arts, as well as historical industrial and technological objects. In short, processed metal can be found everywhere in the museum. From splendid suits of armour, bullets, weapons, and coins, to fridges and garden spades – metal is used in such an array of objects that the work of a metal conservator in a history museum is by necessity extremely varied. The exhibits and their role in historical events largely determine our decisions on appropriate treatments and the extent to which an object should be restored. A hole in a steel helmet caused by a bullet that injured or even killed the person wearing it, for instance, will not be repaired in order to preserve the historical context and not just the historical object itself.
As many objects are made of a combination of materials, our metal conservators regularly work together with other conservation studios at the museum. Mounting the objects for exhibitions is particularly challenging. The Metal Conservation Studio at the DHM has specially developed movable substructures specifically for the lifelike presentation of medieval armour “in motion”, which we are continually fine-tuning.