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Collection Care

Collection care is one of the three pillars of collection management which, in addition to preservation, includes development (growth, enrichment, etc.) and use (display, research, etc.) of collections.

Interested in Collection Care? Learn more about AIC's Collection Care Network.

Collection care is simply being careful to avoid needless damage and loss to a collection. More technically stated, collection care achieves the systematic mitigation of all risks to all strategically managed values of a collection. There are three important concepts in that statement: “systematic mitigation,” “all risks,” and “strategically managed values.”

Systematic mitigation means that we do not rely entirely on received wisdom such as store in a cool, dark, dry place, despite how generally sensible that wisdom is. Rather, the benefit of mitigating any conceivable risk is considered relative to the costs and benefits of dealing with that risk and, most importantly, the effect on the expected usefulness of the collection over time. The idea of addressing all risks is critically important. Focusing resources on only a few risks can inadvertently leave a collection vulnerable in unaddressed areas. A few examples of the many risks needing consideration include physical forces leading to wear, distortion and breakage, fire, flood, thieves, and misplacement leading to loss, pests, light, and inappropriate levels of contaminants, temperature, and relative humidity leading to damage. Finally, collection care efforts ought to be directed to protecting strategically managed values and not simply material state, appraisal value, or other kinds of value not contributing to the purpose of the collection.

The activities required for effective care of collections involve a wide range of professionals including conservators, facility managers, curators, registrars, preparators, collection managers, security staff, archivists, exhibit designers, architects, and maintenance staff, among others. Highly effective collection care is the result of all these players acting together as a team.

Collection Care Resources

Connecting to Collection Care (C2C Care)

The Connecting to Collections Care (C2C Care) online community is an interactive resource that connects staff and volunteers at museums, archives, and libraries with each other and with solid information about collections care. This online community was launched in 2011 as Connecting to Collections, a cooperative effort between the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) and Heritage Preservation with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Now a relatively new project called Connecting to Collections Care, the community is moderated and run by the Foundation for the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (FAIC), with funding from IMLS and advice and content provided by AIC’s Collection Care Network (CCN). The C2C Care site contains the following resources:

  • Meeting Room– Access free webinars with leading conservation professionals
  • Discussion Forum– Hear from those who have been there before! Post your questions and assist other online community members with their collection care queries.
  • Calendar– Find out about upcoming events, training opportunities, and grant deadlines related to Collections Care.
  • Archive – Past C2C Care Online Community discussions and presentations can be found here sorted by topic.

Access the C2C Care site or learn more about the history and other related Connecting to Collections initiatives on FAIC's page.

STASH: Storage Techniques for Art, Science, and History

In 2014 FAIC, in collaboration with the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC), launched STASH, an online venue to explore solutions for storage and support of cultural property. The site is accessible at www.stashc.com as well as from Conservation Online (CoOL). The website contains the content from the 1992 book, Storage of Natural History Collections: Ideas and Practical Solutions, which is now supplemented and expanded by new articles. All submissions follow the same format as published pieces, including sections that detail purpose, description, materials, tools and supplies, construction, and comments. In addition to the articles the site also contains:

  • General information for each type of support or storage solution: (e.g. cabinets, drawers, trays, hangars, pallets, etc.) that gives an overview of important considerations and the ability to comment on the various solutions in that section of the site.
  • A glossary to assist users in understanding technical terminology.
  • A “Materials, Supplies and Tools” chart that identifies products used in the articles by their material component, brand name, manufacturer and supplier.
  • A blog to announce new initiatives, tools, materials and items of interest that relate to storage and rehousing of collections.
  • The support pages include an online forum for interactive commentary where visitors can discuss their own comments, reviews, modifications or ask questions about various entries.

The website is aimed at a wide range of professionals including conservators, curators, preparators, collections managers, technicians, volunteers, etc. involved in preventive care and safe storage.  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 email collectioncare@conservation-us.org.

Download Discussion Framework 

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:

If there is a collection care resource you would like developed, please email collectioncare@conservation-us.org.


Staff Survey

The Collection Care Network (CCN) of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) conducted a 2013 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. 

Collection Care and Management Staff Titles and Responsibilities Survey

Staff responsible for the care and management of collections is a growing segment of staffing in collecting cultural heritage institutions. Continued research into preventive conservation and sustainable collection management practice has spurred development of an increasingly professional staffing element to manage physical, informational, and legal aspects of fulfilling an institution’s duties of care towards collections it holds in the public trust. AIC’s Collection Care Network (CCN) seeks to support and encourage collaboration among all people engaged in collection care in order to further preservation of cultural heritage.  This 2016 survey focuses exclusively on collection care and management professionals within institutions.

Conference and Workshops

2018 AIC Annual Meeting in Houston, TX

CCN planned a full day session of talks and an Idea Fair at AIC's 46th Annual Meeting. Several workshops, posters, and additional sessions related to Collection Care were also presented. See the schedule and abstracts.

2017 AIC Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL

CCN planned a half-day session of talks and an Idea Fair at AIC's 45th Annual Meeting. Several workshops, posters, and additional sessions related to Collection Care were also presented. See the schedule and abstracts.

Collections Care: Multiple Storylines, One Plot

Three CCN speakers brought a discussion of collection care to the 2013 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.

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 worked and is working on a number of projects that will support the practice of collection care. AIC members can join the network by indicating interest on their member profile.

See the list of current CCN officers >>

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