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.

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