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Collection Care Network

We created the  Collection Care Network (CCN) 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, #20) and to support the growing number of conservators and collection care professionals with strong preventive responsibilities and interests. We work on a number of projects that support the practice of collection care. Join the network by indicating interest on your profile.

What is 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. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. All risks means not focusing resources on only a few risks, which 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.
  3. Strategically managed values means efforts ought to be directed to protecting not simply material state, appraisal value, or other kinds of value not contributing to the purpose of the collection. 

Effective care of collections involves 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.


Surveys

Staff Survey

We conducted a survey of museum professionals in 2013 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 network include advocating for collections care, low cost collections care training and professional development, and access to up-to-date and reliable conservation information. We 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. We seek 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

AIC's 46th Annual Meeting in Houston (2018)

We planned a full day session of talks and an Idea Fair. The meeting program included several workshops, posters, and additional sessions related to Collection Care

AIC's 45th Annual Meeting in Chicago (2017)

We planned a full day session of talks and an Idea Fair. The meeting program included several workshops, posters, and additional sessions related to Collection Care.

AIC's 40th Annual Meeting in Albuquerque (2012)
We led a brainstorming session for groups of approximately 10 participants who watched one of 9 short videos from the perspectives of different allied professionals. Each video presented a collection care challenge or question the network could use to develop resources in response.

The following contain videos and a summary of the conversations that followed:

AAM's 2013 Annual Meeting in Baltimore (2013)

We brought three speakers to a discussion of collection care at 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.