Collection Care

Collection care, which is sometimes called preventive conservation, involves any actions taken to prevent or delay the deterioration of cultural heritage. The primary goal is to identify and reduce potential hazards to heritage with thoughtful control of their surroundings. The professions most influenced by collections care include conservator-restorers, curators, collection managers, and registrars.

Cultural heritage face threats from a variety of sources on a daily basis, from thieves, vandals, and pests; to pollution, humidity, and temperature; to natural emergencies and physical forces; to all kinds of light. Effects stemming from these issues can be treated and sometimes reversed with interventive conservation after the damage has occurred. However, many of the sources of danger mentioned above are controllable, and others are at least predictable. Collections care strives to mitigate the occurrence of damage and deterioration through research and the implementation of procedures which enhance the safety of cultural heritage objects and collections. The areas of particular concern with regard to the sources of damage include: environmental conditions, object handling, integrated pest management, emergency preparedness, and records management.

Collection Care Resources

Collection Care Staff Survey

The Collection Care Network (CCN) of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) conducted a survey of museum professionals targeted to gauge the demographics, responsibilities, challenges, and training needs of collection care staff. The 768 respondents included collection managers, registrars, technicians, conservators, and other staff. Respondents reflected a variety of backgrounds and experience, but interestingly most had academic backgrounds, like Art History and Science, and required further training in collection care. A comparison of areas of expertise required and held indicated the greatest needs were in the areas of preservation planning, collection risk assessment, and emergency preparedness. Many respondents are interested in greater access to conservation information. They indicated that top priorities for the CCN include advocating for collections care, low cost collections care training and professional development, and access to up-to-date and reliable conservation information. The Collection Care Network will use the information collected in this survey to craft future initiatives and programming. 

Download Report 

Conservation-wiki: Preventive Care

Information on preventive care topics compiled by CCN members is being shared on the AIC wiki site. Please check back regularly as new content is put online.

Some current entries include:

STASH: Storage Techniques for Art, Science, and History Collections 

STASH is a new web resource that is currently in development by FAIC in collaboration with the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC). When launched the site will provide museum professionals involved in preventive care with an online venue to explore solutions for storage and support of cultural property. STASH will gather, organize, and present information about collections storage in a peer reviewed form. The site will be housed on Conservation Online (CoOL), an electronic preservation asset under the auspices of the FAIC. The web resource will be grounded by the 1992 book, Storage of Natural History Collections: Ideas and Practical Solutions. To build upon the original publication and update and expand the offerings of solutions, new entries will be solicited, refereed and posted.  New submissions will follow the same format as published pieces, including sections that detail purpose, description, materials, tools and supplies, construction, and comments.  We envision that this website will be used by a wide range of professionals including conservators, curators, preparators, collections managers, technicians, volunteers, etc. FAIC is grateful to the Kress Foundation for funding the creation of the STASH website.

Collection Care Information Exchange Discussion Framework

The exchange of collection care practices between preservation professionals on a one-to-one basis can have added benefits beyond a traditional training setting. While conferences and workshops provide networking and information exchange, it generally occurs without a set curriculum and often at great cost to participants. In developing the Collection Care Information Exchange Discussion Framework, the American Institute for Conservation’s Collection Care Network aims to provide a set framework that individuals and institutions may use to guide discussions about collection care practices, policies, and procedures. A discussion framework PDF is provided below. Collection care staff, conservators, registrars, curators, administrators, and other staff responsible for collection care within their institutions may use relevant sections of the framework to guide their conversations. It is ideal to select in advance what will be covered, how much time it will take, and which staff members should participate. Interviews with additional staff members and facility tours at the host site can enhance the experience. If you have any questions about using the Collections Care Information Exchange Discussion Framework, please contact Becky Fifield, CCN Chair, at collectioncare@conservation-us.org.

Download Discussion Framework 

If there is a collection care resource you would like developed please contact CCN Vice Chair, Rebecca Fifield.

Conference and Workshops

AIC's 42nd Annual Meeting (2014) - Conscientious Conservation - Sustainable Choices in Collection Care

The CCN ensures AIC’s annual meeting offers opportunities for sharing of new ideas and practices in collection care. The 2014 meeting, Conscientious Conservation: Sustainable Choices in Collection Care, promises to be a great opportunity for sharing insights and experiences in collection care. There will be a wide variety of professions and organizations represented at the conference. We hope you will consider attending. 

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Collections Care: Multiple Storylines, One Plot

Three CCN speakers brought a discussion of collection care to this year's American Alliance for Museums Annual Meeting in Baltimore. Focusing on the storytelling theme of the conference, Rachael Perkins Arenstein, Patricia Silence, and Rebecca Fifield presented Collection Care: Multiple Storylines, One Plot. The talk used the 90 minute Flash format, during which three speakers present short, targeted presentations, followed by a period of interaction with the audience. The talks covered raising visibility of collection care in institutions, managing collection care, and how to work with contract conservators to plan for collection care at small institutions. The following link includes the slides and speaking notes from that presentation. 

Download Powerpoint Presentation 

AIC's 40th Annual Meeting (2012) - Collection Care Brainstorming Session

The CCN recognizes that successful preservation requires the input of many voices: architects, object mountmakers, lighting designers, collections managers, museum administrators and so many others. During the network’s initial session at the 40th Annual Meeting, the CCN leadership team led a brainstorming session among AIC membership. Groups of approximately 10 participants watched one of 9 short videos from the perspectives of different allied professionals. Each video presented a collection care challenge or question. The discussion aimed to suggest projects the Collection Care Network could develop that would provide tools to overcome the challenge or answer the question. 

The following links contain most of the videos and a summary of the brainstorming conversations that followed.

Allied Professional Groups

The CCN is currently focusing on establishing working relationships with other organizations involved in collection care. We have established liaisons with a growing number of allied organizations. These organizations are excellent collection care resources.

Organizations with official CCN liaisons:

If your collection care organization is not listed here please contact the CCN’s Communication and Outreach Chair, Gretchen Guidess.

Collection Care Network

AIC's Collection Care Network (CCN) was created in recognition of “the critical importance of preventive conservation as the most effective means of promoting the long-term preservation of cultural property” (from Guidelines for Practice of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works, #20) and to support the growing number of conservators and collection care professionals with strong preventive responsibilities and interests. The CCN has and is working on a number of projects that will support the practice of collection care.

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