Internal Partnerships for Collection Care

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

Chapter 2: Building Internal Partnerships for Collection Care

Dieter Fenkart-Fröschl, National Park Foundation, Washington, DC
Christopher A. Norris, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven, CT

The hundreds of millions of objects held in museums, libraries, and archives worldwide are fundamentally important to who we are as humans and how we have evolved; however, maintaining these items in storage vaults for the benefit of future generations makes it difficult for visitors, scholars, donors, and the wider public to connect with the collections. How can institutions reconcile these competing needs and prompt individuals in those organizations to cooperate in making decisions that ensure these vast collections receive the best possible treatment and preservation, without compromising the institution’s responsibility to make them accessible through exhibition, education, and research? We argue that the solution lies in more effective collaboration. Many of the critical elements of a preventive conservation strategy – space allocation, donor engagement, environmental management, security, custodial services, pest control, and health and safety – are outside the direct control and expertise of institutional curators, collection managers, or conservators. This means that collection care objectives can only be fully met through interdisciplinary partnership, and most importantly, through partners who understand the need and have the desire to care for collections. We discuss strategies for identifying and engaging with institutional partners, leveraging opportunities across the institution, and developing management structures that facilitate rather than hinder collaboration.