Health and Safety

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

Chapter 17: Safety and Health Issues within Storage Spaces

Kathryn A. Makos, Rockville, MD; David Hinkamp, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL
James R. Smith, Jr., National Museum of Natural History, Suitland, MD

A competent emergency management program can limit the impact of disaster on collections and institutional operations. Emergency preparedness activities within collecting institutions include life safety, collection safety, and business continuity functions. A cross-disciplinary approach best identifies and prepares for specific risks to the institution and collections. Developing an effective program requires the perspectives of security, collection, conservation, facilities, registrar, custodial, and communication staff. Planning together with local responders and emergency managers and aligning with industry systems and language allows the institution to work more efficiently with authorities during an emergency. Maintaining the program’s relevance and effectiveness requires regular training, program assessment, and plan maintenance.


Health and Safety for Museum Professionals cover.jpg

The Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections and the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) co-published Health and Safety for Museum Professionals, edited by Catharine Hawks, Michael McCann, Kathyrn Makos, Lisa Goldberg, David Hinkamp, Dennis Ertel, and Patricia Silence. The nineteen chapters in this comprehensive volume were written by top specialists in their field and is organized into three parts:

  • Part 1: Principles of Safety and Health - fire protection, occupational hazards, and waste management.
  • Part 2: Specific Hazards - particulates, chemical hazards, and toxins, physical, mechanical and electrical hazards, and radiation.
  • Part 3: Museum Work - facilities management, emergency salvage, collections management, fieldwork, conservation and restoration, and exhibit protection and maintenance.

The hardcover book is available for purchase at University Products

Online Resources

American Institute for Conservation's Health & Safety Network maintains an extensive wiki page covering a wide range of relevant topics including:

  • Personal Health & Safety
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Working with Hazardous Collections Materials
  • Historic Building Hazards
  • Hazard Communication
  • Work Practices
  • Chemicals
  • Regulatory Organizations and Standards
  • Hazardous Waste
  • Emergencies & Disasters