April 15, 2020
Northern States Conservation Center
Collections Caretaker eNewsletter
|Welcome to the Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter from Northern States Conservation Center. The newsletter is designed to bring you timely and helpful content that is pertinent to situations we all encounter in our museum and archives work. Feel free to let us know what topics you would like to see featured in Collections Caretaker or even contribute an article.
In This Issue
On Covid-19 and Managing Separation
On COVID-19 and Managing Separation
By Joan Baldwin
Nothing changed this week, and yet everything did. Pandemic numbers continued to climb, all while public health officials predict the worst is still to come. Lines for food banks grew as the number of unemployed multiplied. Museums and heritage organizations made headlines with
of front line staff. Midst it all, those of us lucky enough to work from home, found our worlds simultaneously shrink to the size of our houses or apartments and expand to the farthest reaches of the world as we spend more and more time online.
This week I've been thinking about separation. As museum folk, our livelihood depends on our interaction with things - paintings, documents, buildings, living things or objects. Suddenly, we're apart. Apart from the stuff we care for, caring that comes in many forms, through leadership, advancement, scholarship, education, conservation or transportation. Whatever our role, we're separated. And in this case we're separated not just from the heartbeat of our museums or heritage sites, we're separated from colleagues, our human communities, volunteers, tiny children, bigger children, budding artists and scientists, families, and elders.
Is there such thing as a good separation? How do you manage disconnection yet stay attached? How many novels, plays and movies take shape when one character announces they must leave, but they'll be back? How do relationships deepen between absent friends? Does absence make the heart grow fonder?
And what sustains us through a separation? It used to be letter writing. Now, not so much. Are separations also defined by how we choose to fill the absence?
This week I read a
by John Stromberg, director of Dartmouth's Hood Museum to his community. Stromberg talks about the Hood's commitment to art "by all, for all." But more exciting to me is his open acknowledgement that however empathetic and caring the Hood's exhibitions were, now the museum is closed, he acknowledges his staff must pivot. He writes:
As the Hood Museum staff continues to transition to our new digital work format, we are challenged to revitalize and update a key tenet of what we do: putting individuals in direct contact with original works of art and each other. How do we move forward without the physical proximity that has been critical to our practice? Can digital means replicate the intimacy of face-to-face dialogue about today's most pressing issues?
So must separation incorporate a willingness to change and grow?
Then there is the Philbrook Museum of Art whose relationship with its community, both virtual and actual is a marvel, thanks in part to the leadership of Scott Stulen, a multi-talented artist who admits his directorship is about putting community building into "overdrive." Who doesn't want to know a place that in a matter of days changed its tagline to "Chillbrook Museum of Staying Home, Stay Home, Stay Social" as if this were just another day in the life. The
website makes you believe all your emotional and intellectual needs are in hand. Whether it's listening to podcasts, hearing a tiny concert or participating in a children's art class, it's clear that separated or not, the museum percolates along, even for those of us who've never been to Tulsa, OK. This week the Philbrook put its money where its mouth is, announcing it is expanding its edible garden in order to support the food bank. How could anyone forget a place that offers so much for so many, and who manages to be winsome, and serious, musical and witty, all at the same time? Maybe a good separation is about enhancing what's already there, making it richer in the absence of human contact?
Although Old Salem Museum and Gardens closed ahead of some North Carolina museums and heritage sites, the door was barely shut before it launched #wegotthis, a series of online events that included the History Nerd Alert and the
Old Salem Exploratorium
. About a week ago, it began transforming its historic gardens into Victory gardens to support the city's Second Harvest Food Bank. That prompted another online series called Two Guys and a Garden. In addition Old Salem has put its head pastry chef back to work producing 50 loaves of bread a day for the food bank, while its head gardener offers videos on seed starting. Does giving back make an organization more memorable? Is it easier to ask, once you've given?
Last, but not least,
Raynham Hall Museum
(What's not to like about Friday cocktails with a curator?) and the
Tang Teaching Museum
: All used Instagram before the pandemic, but since COVID-19, they've ratcheted things up, speaking directly to their audience, making connections between collections and past epidemics, illness, inspiration, art and spring. And there are many more museums and historic sites you know who, despite separation, are enriching connections, building bridges, and creating new audiences.
So what makes a difficult thing like separation doable? Ah...wait for it....because maybe it's similar to museum life back when things were normal: How about honest, authentic communication that builds outward from mission and collections to connect with community? Opportunities abound for learning the "how-to's" of social media, but knowing your own site, and your own community, and translating your organizational DNA to images, video, tweets and Instagram, that's on you. Because when the separation is over-and it will be-how will your organization be remembered? As the site that closed its doors and then 10 weeks later woke up like Rip Van Winkle? Or as the online friend who made people laugh, taught them some stuff, and helped out the community?
Chillbrook (Philbrook) Museum Instagram post, "Our cats are lonely and would love to hear from you. Write them a letter and they'll write back."
Posted: April 13, 2020| From Leadership Matters. Visit their website for more articles and information at: leadershipmatters1213
Featured Course: Preservation Environments
The museum's brick exterior wall is crumbling. The powder coated metal storage shelves have active rust under the foam padding. Objects in fur
storage are covered in mold. It is raining in the exhibit hall. This is the damage that occurs to museum buildings or collection when staff do not understand preservation environments. Preservation Environments is essential knowledge for any collecting institution. Everyone should understand how humidity and temperature are controlled by a building and its mechanical system. For museum staff considering a new building - and any institution planning to expand or rebuild an existing one - Preservation Environments provide important information for calculating whether the proposed improvements will actually improve the environmental control of your protective enclosure. Participants learn the advantages and disadvantages of numerous methods of temperature and humidity control. Preservation Environments does not try to turn museum professionals into engineers. Rather, it arms them with the knowledge they need to work with engineers and maintenance professionals. And helps explain why damaged occurred and how to keep it from happening again.
Want to learn how to talk to your HVAC technicians? Curious about why there is condensation on your windows? How does your building itself affect the environment inside it? Join Ernest Conrad for MS211 Preservation Environments to find the answers to these and other questions about your museum environment starting May 4, 2020.
Featured Course: Care of Furniture and Wood Artifacts
Caring for furniture and wood artifacts demands an understanding of how and
why wood deteriorates. This course offers a simplified explanation of the chemistry and structure of wood as well as the finished wooden object; be it either a totem pole, plow or a French polished table. Care of Furniture and Wood Artifacts teaches students to identify woods, finishes and furniture styles, write condition reports, and understand the agents of deterioration that are harmful to wood both in storage and on exhibit. Topics include preparing wood artifacts for storage and exhibit, the use of archival materials with wood artifacts, housekeeping techniques for furniture and large objects on open display, basic repairs and three dimensional supports for storage or exhibit.
Early Bird Discounts Available for Full Length Courses
An Early Bird Discount is available for anyone who signs up for a full length course from
30 days prior to the start of that course.
Sign up for a full length course up to 30 days prior to its start and save $100.00!
To take advantage of this discount, you must enter coupon code EARLYBIRD at checkout at
The Early Bird Discount deadline for June Courses is May 15, 2020
May 4 to 29, 2020 NEW DATES
Instructor: Laura Elliff Cruz
If you are building a new storage facility or retrofitting an old one, this course provides the blueprint for how to approach architects and engineers as well as redesigning your facility yourself. The course covers the philosophy of storage, the construction requirements, security, fire and water prevention, types of furniture, and how to plan for collections growth.
The course will start with a refresher on the agents of deterioration and environmental issues to assure that the students have a common base to begin.
After this introduction, topics include determining storage and defining space, architectural design considerations and issues such as lighting, security and planning. We will discuss general information about storage furniture types and storage materials, how to modify existing cabinets and information on homemade storage systems. The last section includes specific information from a variety of vendors, specifics on writing a Request for Proposal (RFP), and what to consider when making a decision on a furniture type and vendor.
The instructor will add readings and other information depending upon the students and their individual institutional problems and concerns.
May 4 to June 12, 2020 NEWS DATES
Instructor: Kimberly Kenney
Acquiring and holding collections impose specific legal, ethical and professional obligations. Museums must ensure proper management, preservation and use of their collections. A well-crafted collections management policy is key to collections stewardship. Collections Management Policies for Museums and Related Institutions helps participants develop policies that meet professional and legal standards for collections management. Collections Management Policies for Museums and Related Institutions teaches the practical skills and knowledge needed to write and implement such a policy. The course covers the essential components and issues a policy should address. It also highlights the role of the policy in carrying out a museum's mission and guiding stewardship decisions. Participants are expected to draft collections management policies.
May 2020 Courses
May 4 to 15, 2020
Instructor: Karin Hostetter
Self-guided brochures, exhibit labels, docent led tours, guest speakers, and audio tours are only a few of the methods available to guide visitors through an exhibit. Explore the strengths and challenges of many different methods and garner resources for further information. Learn how to determine which method works best with which exhibits and how to provide variety to enhance the visitor experience.
May 4 to June 12, 2020
Instructor: Ernest Conrad
The museum's brick exterior wall is crumbling. The powder coated metal storage shelves have active rust under the foam padding. Objects in fur storage are covered in mold. It is raining in the exhibit hall. This is the damage that occurs to museum buildings or collection when staff do not understand preservation environments. Preservation Environments is essential knowledge for any collecting institution. Everyone should understand how humidity and temperature are controlled by a building and its mechanical system. For museum staff considering a new building - and any institution planning to expand or rebuild an existing one - Preservation Environments provide important information for calculating whether the proposed improvements will actually improve the environmental control of your protective enclosure. Participants learn the advantages and disadvantages of numerous methods of temperature and humidity control. Preservation Environments does not try to turn museum professionals into engineers. Rather, it arms them with the knowledge they need to work with engineers and maintenance professionals. And helps explain why damaged occurred and how to keep it from happening again.
May 4 to 29, 2020
Instructor: Ann Coppinger
Caring for textiles demands an understanding of how and why they deteriorate. This course offers a simplified explanation of the origin and structure of textile fibers as well as the finished textile object; be it either a piece of whole cloth or a finished garment. Care of Textiles teaches students to identify fibers, fabric structures and finishes, write condition reports, and understand the agents of deterioration that are harmful to various fabrics both in storage on exhibit. Topics include preparing textiles for storage and exhibit, the use of archival materials with textiles, and three dimensional supports.
May 4 to 29, 2020
Instructor: Diana Komejan
Caring for furniture and wood artifacts demands an understanding of how and why wood deteriorates. This course offers a simplified explanation of the chemistry and structure of wood as well as the finished wooden object; be it either a totem pole, plow or a French polished table. Care of Furniture and Wood Artifacts teaches students to identify woods, finishes and furniture styles, write condition reports, and understand the agents of deterioration that are harmful to wood both in storage and on exhibit. Topics include preparing wood artifacts for storage and exhibit, the use of archival materials with wood artifacts, housekeeping techniques for furniture and large objects on open display, basic repairs and three dimensional supports for storage or exhibit.
June 2020 Courses
June 15 to July 10, 2020
Instructor: Sarah Kapellusch
In this course we will examine the most significant laws and regulations that affect collections management, including the legal organization of museums, responsibilities of governing boards, collections care, loans and gifts, international regulations, intellectual property, cultural appropriation, and freedom of expression.
Due to ongoing concerns over the Covid-19 Pandemic many of these Conferences may be cancelled or postponed this year. Check each organization's website to verify dates.
Conferences and Meetings
American Alliance of Museums
Virtual Meeting #AAMvirtual
May 18 & June 1-4, 2020
Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, Edinburgh, Scotland
June 7-13, 2020
Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
June 17-20, 2020
Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums, Boston/Sturbridge, MA
June 21-25, 2020
Association of Midwest Museums, Milwaukee, WI
July 22-25, 2020
Society of American Archivists/Council of State Archivists, Chicago, IL
August 2-8, 2020
Native American Museum Studies Institute
University of California, Berkeley, CA
August 17-20, 2020
Mountain-Plains Museums Association, Sioux Falls, SD
September 1-4, 2020
Oklahoma Museums Association, Enid, OK
September 16-18, 2020
Smithsonian Institution and Office of Protection Services
National Conference on Cultural Property Protection, Los Angeles, CA
September 21-23, 2020
American Association of State and Local History, Las Vegas, NV
Western Museums Association, Portland, OR
October 8-11, 2020
International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection
October 8-13, Washington, DC
Southeastern Museums Conference, Louisville, KY
October 19-21, 2020
New England Museum Association, Newport, RI
November 18-20, 2020
National Association for Interpretation, Saint Augustine, FL
November 10-14, 2020
Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums, Wilmington, DE Dates TBA
American Alliance of Museums, Chicago, IL
May 9-12, 2021
National Association for Interpretation, Palm Springs, CA
November 3-December 4, 2021
American Alliance of Museums, Boston MA
May 19-22, 2022
National Association for Interpretation, Cleveland, OH
November 29-Decemver 3, 2022
American Alliance of Museums, Denver, CO
May 19-22, 2023
Submissions and Comments
How to submit an article or upcoming workshops for inclusion in the Newsletter:
If you would like to submit an article, notice of an organizational meeting or upcoming workshop for an upcoming Collections Caretaker Newsletter, send your submission to
We are always looking for contributions to this newsletter. Submission deadline is the 10th of each month.
Have a comment or suggestion?
Helen Alten, Director
Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager