Electric wires are an integral part of many design objects, yet they are also the part which seems to be the least studied under conservational aspects. But why is that so? Many times, wires are only perceived as a functional necessity for the transmission of electricity, therefore they are not conserved but replaced when an object is needed to be switched on.
But is it justifiable to replace an original part of an object when it is possible to conserve the original? Clearly not. That is why the documentation and conservation of electric wires should not be less important as the conservation of the other parts of an object.
But since there is very little literature on the conservation of electrical wires, the question on how to classify their damages arise. What kind of wire and which materials were used during specific time periods? Are there typical damages for specific types of wires? And how does the use of mixed materials influence the conservation conditions? As there are many different materials combined in one wire, their aging behavior varies – and what is the right storage condition for one material may cause damage to another. So what kind of aging phenomena do occur and how common are they? In order to answer these questions, it was necessary to get an overview on a large amount of electrical wires from a defined production area and time period. The Höhne Collection was the perfect starting point for this research project, since it contained more than 400 electrified objects of Eastern German design culture, covering 25 years of product design of the German Democratic Republic. Using a newly developed checklist, more than 400 electrical wires were examined, classified and their aging phenomena were documented. On the basis of these data, typical aging phenomena of different types of wires were detected, as well as their frequency of occurrence.
After defining the most common damages, a solution for the storage of the wires was needed. What climatic conditions are the most ideal to suit every material used, since electrical wires combine many materials, such as metals, textiles and different types of plastics? Is there one packaging solution, that can be modified to suit every type of material used and its special demands? This package should also be easy to use, visually appealing, not too expensive and producible by a conservator in his/her own workshop. After developing various different ideas and going through their pros and cons, a construction evolved which suited the requirements.
This research project was realized in cooperation with Die Neue Sammlung – The International Design Museum Munich.