The Denver Museum of Nature & Science (DMNS) received funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services-Museums for America program to complete a risk assessment of collections in storage. The goal of the project was to develop a preservation strategy based on a systematic and quantitative evaluation of risks to the collection. This involved identifying both the loss in the value and the risk parameters for the collections.
The DMNS collections contain more than one million objects in the areas of anthropology, earth and space sciences, zoology, and library and archives. They are scattered in 49 locations, only one of which has conditions that meet optimal museum standards. The other 48 locations are crowded and lack one or more important feature such as fire detection and suppression systems, centralized security, or temperature and relative humidity controls. These conditions jeopardize long-term stewardship, restrict public access, and place human safety at risk.
Risks to the collections had been identified in previous conservation assessments. Still, the DMNS lacked a comprehensive and balanced understanding of all risks affecting collections in storage. A more holistic understanding was required for operational preservation funding and is critical for the inevitable trade off decisions that will occur in the value engineering phases of facility concept and design that are scheduled to begin in 2010 as the museum prepares to build a new collections storage facility. For example, when cost savings must be found and the museum is given the choice of reducing investment in security, climate control, or fire protection which choice will have the least impact on any expected long term loss of collection values?
The poster will discuss the process and outcomes of the risk assessment as it occurred at the DMNS. Participating staff included Research and Collections, Security, Facility Operations, and the Board Champion for Collections. Working with the museum’s one million objects, staff identified 31 collection units to evaluate. A comprehensive list of risks was developed based on the Cultural Property Risk Analysis Model developed at the Canadian Museum of Nature. In this model, the magnitude of risk is measured as the product of a fraction susceptible, loss in value, probability, and extent (MR=FS x LV x P x E). As part of the risk assessment, DMNS staff identified an average of 91 risks specific to the collection units. These risks were grouped into categories of rare, sporadic, and continual events. An example of a rare event in the Denver area is an earthquake. An example of a continual event is light damage received in open storage. Staff also identified three kinds of value within each loss of value (LV) estimate. These were discipline, historic, and public access values.
The technical result of the risk assessment exercise is a comprehensive accounting of all identifiable risks to the collections. This will serve as a basis for rational preservation resource allocation both in ongoing collection care and in new facility design. The less tangible but equally important result is a vastly improved mutual understanding of collection preservation issues among all parts of the museum.
(Poster download not available)