Collection Care Surveys

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This content is excerpted from Preventive Conservation: Collection Storage (2019), Elkin and Norris, eds.

Chapter 5: Collection-Care Surveys for Preventive Conservation

Joel Taylor, Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research, Oslo, Norway

Collection surveys form a vital part of collection management. Often required for preventive conservation funding, they are used in museum contexts. Surveys have been designed to accommodate all kinds of materials and sizes of objects and collections, within a wide range of institutions for many purposes. Collections contain a wealth of information about past impacts of the museum environments. Although condition information requires existing deterioration, there is benefit to systematic assessment that goes beyond simple inspection.

Since their inception, collection surveys have been developed to provide management information that connects with a range of other preventive conservation activities. This added complexity may come at a cost if not carried out appropriately, but demonstrates the benefit of collection data in identifying and demonstrating need, and allocating resources.

Although condition is often recorded on a simple numerical scale, there are many complex features and these numbers represent a variety of issues and values connected to the collection, the institution, the institution’s environment and the aims of the survey. Despite superficial similarities each survey is unique. The fit of a survey to its purpose depends on the design. Great care must be taken when using data beyond the original survey purposes.


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