Museum Knowledge Base
< All Topics

Display and conservation of medals

The purpose of this policy is to create a consistent manner in which the Medals in the care of the 48th Highlanders Museum are displayed and evaluated for conservation treatment.  As a general rule medals will be displayed according to the rules that govern their wear in the military with the concession that all objects age and that this is a natural process that cannot be suspended although it can be slowed through the control of the museum’s environment.

Mounting of Medals

  1. The Museum will display Medals as they are mounted with a few exceptions:
  2. Medals that were never worn and are in their original packaging will be mounted using the “Swing Mounting” method so they can be displayed as they would have been worn.
  3. Medals not earned by an individual but contained within a set will not be displayed. If these medals are found mounted in a set they might be removed or the set not displayed.
  4. Medals improperly arranged or with incorrect badges or insignia will be corrected. The original badges will be kept and stored.
  5. Medals that were issued to the individual but were not mounted in a set will be added so long as the Medal is or was recognized by the British / Canadian Honours system as an official award. Unofficial awards will be displayed separately on an individual basis.
  6. Where a change is made to a Medal or Medals Set the original pieces will be kept in the collection in storage and note will be made on the changes in the artifact records.

Repair of Mounts

Broken pins or brooches will be repaired so that Medals can be displayed as worn.


Faded ribbons will be left as they appear unless they are so faded as to be unrecognizable.  In this situation they will be replaced with a new ribbon and the old ribbon will be kept in storage.  Ribbon will not be marked with catalogue numbers.  If they are stored separately they will be housed in individual acid-free envelopes with the number written on the outside.

Medals without ribbons will have the appropriate ribbon added and noted in the accession record.

Torn ribbons will be replaced and the original kept.

Metal Surfaces

  1. Museum staff will not clean medals because cleaning is abrasive and removes details on the surface of the medal.  Furthermore cleaning builds up residues in the crevices and further obliterates the details.
  2. If the surface of the Medal is so tarnished or dirty that it cannot be displayed it shall be evaluated for cleaning by a trained conservator.
  3. Medals will not be anodized, plated or lacquered.  Lacquering a metal surface will often result in an uneven treatment to the surface and patches of tarnish or streaks in the lacquer.  Lacquer is also known to yellow over time.  Anodizing and plating is irreversible and completely changes the appearance of the patina of the medal.
  4. Medals will not be marked with accession numbers except where the medal is not engraved and is in danger of being confused with other sets of medals.  If a medal is marked it will be done in a discrete manner using the methods that are standard museum practice and reversible.
  5. Damaged Medals will be evaluated on a case by case basis. The Museum Committee will then decide what treatments are to be undertaken.


  1. Medals and Medal sets shall be displayed as they would have been worn with the exception that some medals might be displayed on the reverse if the label states this and only when an obverse example is already displayed.
  2. Display cases will be fitted with UV filters to slow the damage caused to silk ribbons.  If possible devices such as charcoal filters will be installed to reduce the tarnish of medals due to sulphur from poor air quality.
  3. Materials used in Display cases will be carefully evaluated to ensure that they meet the Museum’s standards for quality and do not promote deterioration of the collection.


The Museum will display replica medals when no original can be found.  Reproduction Medals will be stated as “replicas” in the artifact label.

If a medal set is missing a medal that has been earned the appropriate ribbon may be used alone, in place of the missing medal, without a replica medal being purchased.

Notify me of
0 Comments or suggestions
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Table of Contents