Friday, June 17, 2011

AAM 2011 Session: Sustainable Preservation Strategies for Museums

These NEH-coordinated sessions are so valuable. They bring together NEH program staff and the practitioners and participants in the agency's Sustainable Cultural Heritage Collections grant program. If you're considering assessing, planning and implementing upgrades to your climate conditions - in storage and on display - you owe it to yourself to attend (or buy the CD of) one of these sessions.

NEH's Senior Program Officer, Preservation & Access program, Laura Word describes this important grant program this way: As the field grapples with how to define guidelines for good collection environments, there is a growing acceptance that one size does not fit all; that striving for flat-lined conditions is not always necessary and is rarely sustainable. There is also growing interest in making the systems already installed work better and more efficiently, and in looking for passive and low-energy alternatives to complex, energy-intensive mechanized systems for managing environmental conditions. [National Archives Conference, 2011]

The environmental sustainability achievements from this are huge - not to mention the benefit of better, more thoughtful, care for collections.  I urge you to check out the website at [2011 deadline not yet announced]

And just quickly - here are some tid-bits from this year's presenters. Note that though they discussed T/RH, it was not a feature of either presentations ... thoughtful, responsive, integrated design is what stands out:

Mike Henry (a marvelous preservation engineer who has provided services for many, many grantees)
  • decisions about the best, most-efficient use of your space available is basic sustainable practice
  • with those spaces, choose which are the best and worst for which types of collections
  • remember that case exhibits buffer objects from the larger space's conditions
  • but box within a box is not an "active" microclimate
  • "if you use recipes you might overlook the opportunities"
  • "go for the base hits; fill the bases then go for the home run"
John Childs, Historic New England (a grantee)

  • follow the KISS principle (Keep it Simple, Stupid)
  • if you can use off-the-shelf, do it - its simpler in so many ways
  • the planning and design process should be inclusive: curators, registrars, directors, engineers, architects, preservationists all at the table at the beginning
  • prioritize threats to the collection
  • analyze and understand current systems
  • consider phased approaches 
  • and small and doable is better than big and impossible: "The Best is the enemy of Good"
If you would like more information on the early public discussions that led directly to this NEH program, there is great content here: May 2009 NEH-CNR Conference in DC.

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