October 15, 2014     
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The Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter

Expanding Your Reach 

In This Issue
It's Mold Season
Regional Workshops
Conferences and Meetings
Volunteer Management - Is your Museum Really Ready?
Goals of Traveling Exhibitions
November 2014 Courses
Submissions and Comments
Upcoming Classes

October 20, 2014


November 3, 2014 

It's Mold Season

By Ernest Conrad, PE, BOMA Fellow, LEED AP, CEM, BEAP


Fall is the most common time of the year to find mold in a museum, library, or archive, especially in the eastern parts of the United States.

Here is how it works - Mold needs time, pure water (condensation), and organic food to grow. The higher the relative humidity around a mold spore, the quicker it can start to grow. A room at 90% RH will grow mold in about 3 days. A room at 80% RH will need about 3 weeks for mold to propagate. A room at 70% RH needs about 3 months for mold to show up. All us folks who keep their cooling systems on 24/7 all summer with no dehumidification capability will find their room humidity levels likely to be around 70% RH. With a cooling season being June, July, August, that's about the time needed for the room to propagate mold.


So how do we prevent this occurrence? There are several ways. Mold is like grass seed. Keep it dry and it just sits there, dormant. If it gets wet for a minute or two but then gets dried back quickly, it is too short a time period to trigger growth. So in non-collections spaces simply turn off the A/C each night and you will break the mold growth cycle. In climate controlled spaces where the A/C cannot be shut off at night, then special HVAC mechanisms need to be in place.  


Join Ernest Conrad for MS211 Preservation Environments to learn more.   


Ernest A. Conrad's greatest contribution to the preservation field was the development of environmental guidelines for engineers who work on museums, libraries and archives. For over 20 years, Mr. Conrad has focused on environmental issues. He is president of Conrad Engineers and Past Founder of Landmark Facilities Group, Inc., an engineering firm specializing in environmental systems for museums, libraries, archives and historic facilities. A licensed mechanical engineer in several states, Mr. Conrad holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and a master's in environmental engineering from Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has a special interest in house museums and how climate affects structures and collections housed within those structures. For more information visit his web site Landmark Facilities Group, Inc.

Tech Bulletin #26 Mould Prevention and Collection Recovery: Guidelines for Heritage Collections
Tech Bulletin #26 Mould Prevention and Collection Recovery: Guidelines for Heritage Collectionss

Author: Sherry Guild and Maureen MacDonald. Mould infestation in heritage collections can damage artifacts and may pose a health risk to individuals who work with these collections. This Technical Bulletin presents information on mould morphology, prevention of mould growth, actions to take should mould occur, and health effects relating to mould exposure. It informs the reader how to remove mould growth from artifacts and it describes the appropriate personal protective equipment to wear when working in a mould-contaminated environment or when working with mould-infested artifacts.

Fabric of an Exhibition: An Interdisciplinary Approach - Preprints
Fabric of an Exhibition: An Interdisciplinary Approach - Preprints
Author: various authors. 26 papers that offer new solutions to problems encountered when exhibiting textiles. Topics range from temporary to long-term displays, exhibition environments, historic houses, traveling exhibits, support and presentation, and expanding professional roles. 206 pp.

Regional Workshops 


Where you can find some of our instructors this year:

Gawain Weaver
Standford University Libraries, Cecil H. Green Library
John Simmons
Forthcoming publications:
  • "Foundations of Museum Studies: Evolving Systems of Knowledge" with Dr. Kiersten F. Latham
  • "Fluid Preservation: A Comprehensive Reference"
  • "Collection Care and Management" in "Museum Practice," edited by Conal McCarthy
Karin Hostetter
National Association for Interpretation, Denver, CO 
  • Professional Development Ascends to New Heights, November 18, 2014 (co-presenting with Peggy Schaller)

Steve Layne 

International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions, Orlando, FL   
  • Your Personal Safety, Monday, November 17, 2014, 9:00 - 10:15 a.m.
  • Emergency Operations Planning, Monday, November 17, 2014, 10:30 - 11:45 a.m. 

Peggy Schaller

National Association for Interpretation, Denver, CO 
  • Professional Development Ascends to New Heights, November 18, 2014 (co-presenting with Karin Hostetter)

Conferences and Meetings

Southeast Association of Museums Annual Meeting

October 20-22, 2014, Knoxville, TN


Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Annual Meeting, October 22-24, 2014, Washington, DC  


2014 Packing and Crating Workshop, "Crating & Packing Dynamics, Current and Future Trends", November 6 -7, 2014, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA



New England Association of Museums Annual Meeting

November 19-21, 2014, Cambridge, MA


National Association of Interpretation Annual Meeting

November 18-22, 2014, Denver, CO 

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About Us

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.

Volunteer Management - Is Your Museum Really Ready?

By Karin Hostetter


Volunteers are an important part of many museums. Volunteers do work for us; they educate visitors; they answer questions; they bring in money. But having a successful volunteer program means laying some strong foundations.


Start with the main foundation of the museum itself - its mission. Volunteers' main reason for existing should be to support the organization's mission, no matter what their job. Every staff and volunteer should be able to state exactly how what they do directly supports the mission. It is not enough to say they do some job to support the mission, but they must know how they support the mission. For example, someone working at a gift shop supports the mission by making additional information supporting the resource available to visitors; a person leading tours unlocks the resource for visitors; and a person stuffing envelopes sends out opportunities for interested individuals to interact with the resource.


Once everyone embraces that volunteers support the mission, it is time for staff to acknowledge the cost of volunteers. Contrary to the hope of many, volunteers are not free. They require resources of which time and money are two. What resources is your organization willing to commit to managing volunteers? Begin with which staff person will be the overall manager. Depending on the number of volunteers needed, a full time volunteer manager can be hired, diverting some funds to management or the task of volunteer managing can be given to an existing staff person and adding on to job responsibilities, diverting time to volunteer management. Staff also need to understand the impact volunteers might have on their own work. If volunteers congregate near other staff work areas, noise levels increase. Some staff easily can tune this out and others will be totally distracted.

Volunteers have social needs which can affect staff. While many reasons exist for individuals to volunteer, two are high at the list: the need for a social network and the desire to learn from the experts. When volunteers need the social connection, they can get that from other volunteers and from staff. As volunteers come in at varying times throughout the day and week, if every one of them stopped by staff desks and talked only 5 minutes each time, that adds up to several hours of the staff person's day. When the desire to learn from experts is what draws an individual to volunteer, interruptions to the staff day can be thirty minutes or more at a time. Managing these interruptions takes planning. Staff might post designated "open office" hours where they plan their work day to welcome volunteers stopping by or a volunteer staging area might be provided away from the main area of paid staff.


And space is another resource volunteers need. They need an area to hang coats, leave purses or backpacks, record their hours, and receive communications. Maybe this is a nook with just a desk and bulletin board or maybe it is an entire room designed for volunteer use. Space is often at a premium in museums, so designating some for volunteers is sometimes challenging.


Yet one more foundational block to consider is the main role volunteers have within the organization - fundraising, work force, idea bank. Each purpose requires a separate set of strategies for recruiting, training, communicating, and rewarding.


Finally, decide who is in charge, who has the authority to make decisions, and who has final responsibility. The overall structure greatly influences the relationship of the volunteer program with the organization. At the most basic level, volunteer programs are either staff guided or volunteer guided. This is determined by the answer to two questions: first, how much input do the volunteers need in order to provide the resources as defined in the purpose of the volunteer program, to accomplish the defined tasks, and to feel valued; second, how much time is staff willing to put into discussions and compromises?


In a staff-dominated structure, a staff person makes decisions, initiates communication, matches jobs with volunteers, solves problems, recruits volunteers, etc. It is time consuming, but one person always knows everything going on and can keep the pieces connected. Change is easier to manage and communication is more streamlined. Processes are simplified and fewer personalities need to be considered. Volunteers primarily do an assigned job. Volunteers might not feel connected or that their voices are heard - this can lead to high turnover.


In a volunteer-dominated structure, volunteers manage themselves in most situations. They might have a leadership board and several committees to share the work and make sure everything is done. Volunteers have a strong sense of ownership and commitment. However, they can lose sight of their role to support the organizational mission and finding leadership each year can be challenging.


No matter what structure is in place, it should be clear and effective. Drawing up an organizational flowchart can be helpful. Does it make sense? Is leadership clear - who is in top decision-making positions?


Once all the above foundational aspects are determined, orientation for new paid staff should include time on the role of volunteers to the museum and the expected culture of staff/volunteer relationships. If all the foundational elements are firmly in place, you are now ready to start recruiting volunteers.


Join Karin for her course The Volunteer Handbook beginning November 3, 2014 to learn more.


Karin Hostetter has over thirty years experience with museum education. With a career that includes natural history museums, cultural history museums (including first person interpretation), nature centers, and zoos, Ms. Hostetter is experienced in interpretive writing, program and curriculum development, and staff and volunteer training. Ms. Hostetter is owner of Interpret This, a consulting company specializing in interpretive writing, program and curriculum development, and volunteer program management. When she is not consulting with other museums, she likes to volunteer and contract teach at them with a special love for preschool and family programs.

Goals of Traveling Exhibitions

By Lin Nelson-Mayson


Your museum's exhibition program is robust and appropriate for the needs of your museum. You have developed connections to your mission, collection, and audiences. What about sharing one or more of your projects with other museums? Why would you consider taking on the extra effort of developing and managing a tour?


Most museums decide to travel their exhibition to share the work they did in creating it. Information gathered through research for the exhibition will help guide the development of a list of potential tour venues that may share an interest in the topic or learning goals of the exhibition. An exhibition tour is developed with the same care that you create your own exhibition schedule, seeking connections to the missions, collections, and/or communities of potential venues.


In addition, a traveling exhibition can be a deliberate collaborative project between two or more museums that agree to co-develop the exhibition. In that case, the work of developing the exhibition may be divided between the partners (one managing all the loans and another one the fundraising, for example), and the travel schedule is determined in advance, based on factors that facilitate loans or travel. Although this is a complex model, it often allows the partners to develop a more robust exhibition than each partner may be capable of mounting on their own.


For museums seeking to augment their exhibition schedule, booking a traveling exhibition can augment staff resources and provide an opportunity to showcase collection objects. A more complete evaluation of a museum's readiness to host an exhibition will be addressed in this course and a partial list of traveling exhibition sources will be provided in a resource list.


To learn more about traveling exhibitions join Lin Nelson-Mayson for the MS244 Traveling Exhibitions course beginning November 3, 2014.


Lin Nelson-Mayson, with over 25 years of museum experience at small and large institutions, is director of the University of Minnesota's Goldstein Museum of Design. Prior to that, she was the director of ExhibitsUSA, a nonprofit exhibition touring organization that annually tours over 30 art and humanities exhibitions across the country. For five years, she was a coordinator or judge for the American Alliance of Museums' Excellence in Exhibitions Competition. She also served on the National Sculpture Society's Exhibition Committee. Ms. Nelson-Mayson has extensive experience with the planning, preparation, research and installation of exhibitions. Ms Nelson-Mayson's experience includes teaching museum studies and museology courses. Her particular interest is the needs of small museums. 

November 2014 Courses


MS212: Care of Textiles

November 3 - 28 2014

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.


MS218: Collection Inventories

November 3 - 28 2014

Instructor: Peggy Schaller


Collection inventories are vital to collection management and security. You need to know what is in your collection to be able to manage it well. This means regular inventories must occur. But knowing you must do them and actually having the time and manpower to complete an inventory are two different things. Collection Inventories discusses everything you ever wanted to know about collection inventories from how to set one up to how to conduct an inventory. Other topics include what to look for during an inventory and how to reconcile the information.


MS253: Disaster Preparation & Recovery

November 3 - 28 2014

Instructor: Helen Alten


Safeguarding collections and protecting staff and visitors is one of hte most important functions of a cultural institution. Course introduces students to disaster preparedness, response and recovery of cultural collections for all types of potential hazards. The components of incident preparedness and response are explained with examples from the instructor's experience in recovery of cultural collections, including small to large situations with fire, flood, high winds, and earthquake. After an institutional plan is written, the next step is to train staff in prevention, proper staff actions during an event, and post-event recovery. This course complements Disaster Plan Research and Writing, taught by Terri Schindel.


MS267: Museum Ethics

November 3 - 28 2014

Instructor: John E. Simmons


This course will examine the role of ethics in museums and related institutions. Topics addressed will include the differences in ethics, laws, and morals; what ethics are and where they come from; the ethical codes that museum professionals follow; how ethics affect professional practices; why ethics are important; and how ethical standards can help museums and related institutions better serve society. Participants in the course will gain an understanding of the importance of ethics in professional museum practice, how codes of ethics are written and why they are important, and will develop an understanding of the most significant codes of ethics subscribed to by museum professionals.


MS244: Traveling Exhibitions

November 3 - 28 2014

Instructor:  Lin Nelson-Mayson


Sharing an exciting exhibition with other museums expands your museum's reach and impact. When and how do you plan for this undertaking? How do you manage the exhibition once it has left your facility? How do you ensure a successful exhibition at each venue? Your questions - the more the better - facilitate successful exhibition development and touring. Traveling exhibits, though, are a two-way street. Sometimes you are the lender, sometimes you are the borrower. How do you find and manage interesting exhibits created by other institutions in order to expand your museum's offerings? In this online course, learn how to find interesting exhibits developed by other museums and plan for your exhibition from idea to on the road - and beyond!


MS211: Preservation Environments

November 3 to December 5, 2014

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.


MS259: The Volunteer Handbook

November 3 to December 12, 2014

Instructor: Karin Hostetter


Volunteers should be considered unpaid staff and, like a staff handbook, a strong volunteer organization should have a volunteer handbook. This course goes beyond understanding various aspects of a volunteer program to putting the volunteer program to paper. Create an outline and some draft text for a handbook providing consistency within the volunteers as well a legal support if ever needed.


MS008: Buy-In: Getting All of the Staff to Support Preservation Short Course

Rescheduled: November 3 to 7, 2014

Instructor: Helen Alten


To get anything done in your museum, you often need to get other staff to support the idea. All too often, preservation is left to one or two staff members and others believe it doesn't apply to them. For example, it is hard to successfully implement a pest management plan without full staff support. Everyone must buy into the notion of preservation. But how? Readings will introduce some ideas and participants in this course will brainstorm with Helen about what works, what might work - and what doesn't.


MS007: The Mission Statement: Is it really that important? Short Course

November 10 to 14, 2014

Instructor: Peggy Schaller


The heart of every museum is its collection. A mission statement is critical to preserving that collection. Participants in The Mission Statement will discuss their mission statements and whether they really make a difference. Peggy has seen and heard it all as a consultant to small and large museums. She will help you figure out ways to make your mission statement work for you.  

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 peggy@collectioncare.org.  


We are always looking for contributions to this newsletter. Submission deadline is the 10th of each month. 


Have a comment or suggestion?   


Send it to peggy@collectioncare.org

Northern States Conservation Center (NSCC) provides training, collection care, preservation and conservation treatment services. NSCC offers online museum studies classes at www.museumclasses.org in Collections Management & Care, Museum Administration & Management, Exhibit Practices and Museum Facilities Management.


Helen Alten, Director

Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager