This presentation is part of Preserving U.S. Military Heritage: WWII to the Cold War, Fredericksburg, Texas, June 4-6, 2019.

by Raymond Barnett


The US Army’s Center of Military History (CMH) macro artifact collection is a highly unique and diverse collection spanning the entire history of the US Army, with a particular emphasis on the military technology utilized during the eras between World War I and the Cold War. The collection’s unique and diverse nature can oftentimes present challenges and highly technical complications regarding its long-term preservation and care.

This presentation is intended to guide the audience in an examination of some of those challenges, beginning with an exploration of the macro artifact collection of CMH. How is a macro artifact defined for CMH? What types of artifacts comprise the collection?  Since long-term conservation and exhibition were not considered during the design and manufacture of these technological, surprisingly difficult-to-preserve military artifacts, what are some of the challenges faced as part of their exhibition, conservation, and long-term storage? These topics and more will be explored, expanding on those concepts most relevant to the audience of this symposium. This presentation will be both text- and image-based, conducted through the use of an interactive PowerPoint presentation.

Building upon these issues, the presenter will then demonstrate lessons learned and solutions created in addressing these complex and unique challenges. Concepts considered include proper accessioning and cataloging procedures unique to CMH macro artifacts; identification and appropriate abatement of potentially toxic or hazardous materials; appropriate methods for completing critical procedures vital to the long-term conservation and exhibition of materially complex, high-technology artifacts; and other related topics.

Next will be a candid examination of some of CMH’s past, “less-than-optimal,” collections care practices. Issues for which solutions were identified and enacted in recent years will be discussed, with specific examples provided to illustrate the points being made. For example, a discussion of efforts undertaken to address past deficiencies in the proper hazardous materials abatement of a large percentage of CMH macro artifacts will lead into specific examples of ways in which this deficiency has been corrected. This will then lead into a discussion of efforts put into the clarification and alteration of established policies and procedures to ensure that similar deficiencies do not occur again in the future. It is thought that the frank and open exploration of these challenges and solutions may help attendees identify potential ways in which these lessons learned might be adapted and applied to their own institutions, many of which may be facing similar situations with their own macro artifact collections.

Finally the floor will be opened up for a guided questions session, with the expectation that specific challenges faced by other institutions will be shared. It is hoped that audience members and presenters together might be able to help provide the genesis of a solution, if not a full-fledge answer to the problems raised.


Ray Barnett is a Museum Curator for the US Army’s Center of Military History, Museum Support Center in Anniston, AL. His career emphasis is the conservation, collections care and management of large-scale “macro” artifacts to include tanks, trucks, aircraft, and field guns stored at the MSC-A. Previously he served as the Artifact Collections Manager for Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. He also worked as a Collections Specialist for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. He graduated from the Middle Tennessee State University’s Public History master’s program, and has a Bachelor’s Degree in History from University of Houston.

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
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