September 15, 2015      
Northern States Conservation Center Northern States
Conservation Center

The Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter

Reducing Risks To Your Collections 

In This Issue
Regional Workshops
Conferences and Meetings
Reducing Risk Through Good Collections Management
September & October Courses
Submissions and Comments

Announcing Early Bird Discounts for Full Length Courses


An Early Bird Discount will be 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 pay only $399.00!


For our course list or to sign up:  


To take advantage of this discount, you must enter coupon code EARLYBIRD at checkout at 


The Early Bird Discount deadline for Novebmer 2015 courses is October 5, 2015.

Upcoming Classes
Safeguarding Cultural Properties
Safeguarding Cultural Properties is a step-by-step guide for creating and maintaining a comprehensive security program in any cultural facility or public institution. Author Stevan P. Layne, the leading expert in the field of cultural property protection, draws from his many years of experience providing protection training and planning to more than 350 cultural and public institutions around the world.
Designed especially for those with limited security budgets, the book provides a proven and effective program for hiring the right security personnel, selecting the appropriate electronic security systems, and coordinating critical emergency response, along with all the other security issues unique to the needs of a cultural institution. For individuals responsible for the protection of the people, assets, and collections, Safeguarding Cultural Properties saves time and money by providing the essential resources needed for creating a short- and long-term protection plan.

The only how-to manual written specifically for security managers of museums, libraries, zoos, and other public and private historic sites.
Suitable for both large and small cultural institutions, it covers topics such as personnel security, fire protection, physical security, emergency response, theft protection, and more.
Provides actionable, cost-effective solutions for institutions with limited security budgets and resources.

Safeguarding Cultural Properties  $49.95 
Materials Testing Kit

This kit provides information and supplies to aid in the testing of construction materials.
The Materials Testing Kit includes
  • 24 glass jars
  • Acid detection strips,
  • Tweezers,
  • Silver coupons,
  • Lead coupons,
  • Aluminum foil,
  • 1 sheet of preprinted labels
  • instruction manual.
Materials Testing Kit
Pest Management in Museums, Archives, and Historic Houses

Author: David Pinniger. This is a working guide to help people recognize insect, rodent and bird pests and take practical steps to prevent and control damage to collections. It covers the many recent developments in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in the heritage sector. The book includes new information on trapping and detection of pests and the advantages and disadvantages of physical and chemical control measures. The illustrations have been produced especially for this book and are some of the clearest pictures of museum insects yet published. The chapter on rodent and bird pests completes the comprehensive coverage of any pest problem likely to be encountered. The concerns over the use of pesticides on objects, staff and the environment and the options available are rationally discussed. Applying the principles of IPM, as described in this book, to museums, archives and historic houses is not only safer, but also more cost-effective than many pest control techniques used by museums in the past.
Pest Management in Museums, Archives, and Historic Houses

Steal This Handbook

Author: the Southeastern Registrars Committee. This is a comprehensive book covering emergency preparedness and response for every conceivable type and scale of disaster on historic and non-historic materials. Written by the Southeastern Registrars Committee of the American Association of Museums, we purchase it before it is bound and have it punched to fit in a three ring binder. Adding dividers, it becomes an instant addition to an institutional emergency response plan. Response professionals can add useful articles to the enormous amount of recovery information already provided in the book.
 Steal This Handbook
Regional Workshops

Where you can find some of our instructors in 2015:

Stevan P. Layne
CIPS Regional Security Officer Certification Classes 
  • Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, September 17 and 18, 2015
CIPI Instructor Certification Class
  • Washington DC/Reston, VA, September 18-20, 2015
  • Disaster Preparedness for Cultural Institutions, San Jose, CA, October 24, 2015  

Certified Institutional Protection Manager Class 

  • Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH, February 22, 2016 

Gawain Weaver
The Care and Identification of Photographs
Photograph Conservation Workshop for Book and Paper Conservators
Conferences and Meetings
American Association for State and Local History
Louisville, KY
September 16-19, 2015
Mountain-Plains Museums Association
Wichita, KS
September 27 - October 1, 2015
Southeastern Museums Conference
Jacksonville, FL
October 12 - 14, 2015

Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums
Building Communities: Embracing Diversity in All We Do
Philadelphia, PA
October 21-23, 2015
Western Museums Association
San Jose, CA
October 24-27, 2015
International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection
Hosted by the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville AR and the Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, OK   
October 27-31, 2015
New England Museum Association
Portland, ME
November 4-6, 2015
NAI National Workshop
Virginia Beach, VA
November 10-14, 2015

California Association of Museums
Riverside, California
March 2-4, 2016
Museum Store Association
Atlanta, GA
April 15-18, 2016
Museums Association New York
Museums - Core to Communities
The Wild Center & Lake Placid, NY
April 17-19, 2016
Colorado-Wyoming Association of Museums
Casper, WY
April 28 -30, 2016
American Alliance of Museums
Washington, DC
May 26-29, 2016 
Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections
Berlin, Germany
June 20-25, 2016
New England Museum Association
2016 Annual Conference
Mystic, CT
November 9-11, 2016
New England Museum Association
2017 Annual Conference
North Falmouth, MA
October 25-27, 2017
Join Our Mailing List
Quick Links
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.
Reducing Risk Through Good Collections Management
By Peggy Schaller
In order to reduce risks to your museum's collection the following elements must be part of your daily operations.
  • Access Policies and Procedures
  • Good Collections Management
  • Training
  • Security
  • Practice Preventive Conservation
  • Create and Practice a Disaster/Emergency Preparedness Plan
Access Policies and Procedures
Access Policies and Procedures should address both internal and external access to your collections.
Staff Access
Limit the number of people who have unrestricted access to collections. The only people who need to have unaccompanied access to your collection storage areas are those individuals in charge of the 'care and feeding' of the collection. Depending on the size of your museum, this could be the Collections Manager, the Registrar or the Curator. Someone has to be in charge of making sure that items are not removed or moved without proper documentation, that items taken out of the storage area are replaced in their proper places, and that these movements are documented and updated in the collection catalog. All other individuals requesting access, including the Director, should be accompanied by the person in charge of the collection.
Limit the number of keys to secure Collection storage. Not everyone needs keys to the store. Only the person in charge of the collection should have a key to Collection storage. Key control is critical to keeping your sensitive areas safe. Establish a procedure for securing keys in a locked key box. Any access to that key box and removal of key(s) from it should be recorded on a sign-out/sign-in sheet. Do not leave the key to the key box in the key box lock! Do not tag the keys with the name or room number that it goes to. Use a key code list that simply has numbers with which the keys are tagged. Secure the key box key, the key code list and the sign-out sheet and have someone in charge of monitoring the use of these important elements of security.
Access logs can be helpful to determine who last accessed the secure collections area. Having an Access Log (sign-out sheet) posted at the door to secure collections storage areas and enforcing its use is a good way to track entry into these secure areas. Key cards and card readers on the door can also track entry into secure spaces, but they are not always available to every museum due to the cost of installation and maintenance.
Researcher access
Train researchers in handling. As part of your Researcher Access Policy and Procedures make sure you have a training component in handling for any researcher that will be accessing your collections. Part of the training should include what can and cannot be used while accessing collection items--pencils, not pens; no post-it notes; cotton or nitrile gloves (if appropriate). When handling paper artifacts, be sure to instruct the researcher on page turning; keeping original order; and how to mark and ask for photocopies (if permitted)--use acid-free paper slips to mark pages requested. When handling other artifacts and books, be sure to instruct the researcher in proper handling of different types of materials and whether photographs are allowed--how to pick up and hold; when to wear gloves; what not to grab on to, etc. A note on photography: the photographer retains copyright of images he/she produces and can use those images in any manner they see fit. If you want control over images of your collection, it is important to be able to provide images to researchers that have been taken in house by staff so you can control via permissions how they will be used. These instructions should be both verbal and written. Permit only notebooks and pencils or a laptop (not the case) in the viewing area. Limit the amount of material that a researcher can bring with them when accessing your collection. When limiting that to a notebook and pencil or laptop, there are fewer opportunities to secret pages or other items for removal from the museum or archive. Watch the use of cell phones and computers for taking photos.
Create a secure area for coats, purses, briefcases, backpacks, etc. outside viewing area. Be sure to create an area where those items that are not allowed in the viewing area can be kept secure. Consider lockers or a 'coat check' system whereby you can control access in and out of this area.

Maintain strict and attentive monitoring of researcher(s) during the use of the collection items requested. A staff member needs to be present when any collection item is being accessed. Staff needs to pull and return requested items from secure storage--one item or file at a time, making sure that the previous item is returned before the next is brought out.
Require appointments so staff is available to locate collections and monitor use without distractions. Requiring appointments allows the museum to have a dedicated staff person available whose job it is to monitor and assist the researcher with access to the items they request. This staff person should not be distracted by other duties or allow himself/herself to be distracted by another researcher when collections are being accessed. It would be wise to allow only one researcher at a time to access the collections.
Researcher logs
Require a written request for access with a reasonable reason for use of the collection. Requiring requests in writing allows the museum to vet the request before granting permission to access the collections. The reason for the access request should be reasonable and specific. The 'I just want to see what you have' reason may be a fishing expedition to locate valuable items to steal.
Use a sign-in sheet with verified contact information and require the researcher to sign-off on instructions for handling and use. Using a sign-in sheet and having the researcher sign off that they have understood the verbal and written instructions for use of the requested material will help to keep misuse and mishandling to a minimum.
Record materials requested and viewed on the sign-in sheet. Recording all materials accessed by each researcher can provide the museum or archive with a paper trail that can help track down material that may be found missing or misplaced.

Require staff to pull and return materials. Part of the staff monitoring is to retrieve, record, and return all materials requested by the researcher. Make sure that the first material brought out is returned before retrieving any other material.
Create written rules for photocopying which make sure that items do not get out of order. Respect original order in archival materials and folders and make sure to explain verbally and in writing the rules for keeping pages in the order in which they are presented to the researcher. As previously mentioned, using an acid-free paper marker to mark selected items for photocopying instead of post-its or pulling the original out of the file is a critical piece to maintain the original order of the materials. Again, staff should make the copies for the researcher to be sure the page(s) is returned to the proper place in the file.
Collections Management
Perform periodic inventories and spot checks within the collection. Inventories and spot checks help keep track of the collections, assist with monitoring the condition and stability of the collection, can bring to light any potential environmental issues such as temperature and humidity fluctuations, and active or inactive evidence of pests--insects and mammals. Inventories can also bring to light any unauthorized or unrecorded movement of collections, and frequent inventories allow thefts to be spotted quickly for faster action toward recovery.
Training of Staff
Training in, and adherence to, strict handling guidelines for collections can prevent damage from improper handling. Train staff, volunteers, security personnel (if you have them) and board members who may be called upon to assist with the collection.   Having everyone trained in proper handling can be of great help during an incident where collections must be moved in a hurry to avoid major damage.   Collections staff always has the lead when collections must be moved.
Include a review of collections on exhibition in your opening and closing procedures. This allows museum staff to verify no tampering or damage occurred during open hours or overnight. Photos of exhibit cases can be of help for such a review. Place them in a binder for easy use and update them when exhibits change.
Assessing Risks to Your Collection
Practice Preventive Conservation
Get everyone involved--staff, volunteers, and administration. All staff can assist the collections and conservation personnel in making sure that the museum's collections are properly cared for. Preventive conservation is part of everyone's job from handling artifacts, to maintaining the facility, to securing the collection; we all play a part in this.
Be familiar with and use the Ten Agents of Deterioration to evaluate your collection. These ten agents directly affect museum collections and mitigating them is the job of the entire staff of the Museum, particularly in a smaller institution.

The Ten Agents of Deterioration are:
  • Physical Forces
  • Thieves and Vandals
  • Dissociation
  • Fire
  • Water
  • Pests
  • Contaminants
  • Radiation: Light--Visible, Ultraviolet and Infrared
  • Incorrect Temperature
  • Incorrect Relative Humidity
Monitor the environment within the museum for optimal conditions using temperature and humidity controls and logs; monitoring light levels in storage and exhibition areas; and establishing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to monitor for and prevent pest problems.
Create and Practice a Disaster/Emergency Preparedness Plan
Every museum should have and frequently practice a Disaster/Emergency Preparedness Plan.   Practicing your plan and involving your First Responders in your training is critical to making sure you can manage any incident well and prevent that incident from turning into a disaster. Practice and training will also allow you to modify your plan when things do not go as expected, so the next time you train or when an incident occurs, your response(s) will be better.
Risk Assessment Tools
"Framework for Preservation" Charlie Costain, Sept. 1, 1994,
Robert Waller, "Risk Management Applied in Preventive Conservation" in Storage of Natural History Collections: A Preventive Approach, Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, December 1995, ( ISBN-10: 0963547615 and ISBN-13: 978-0963547613), pp. 22-27; also at
Peggy Schaller, founded Collections Research for Museums in 1991 to provide cataloging, collection-management training and services. She has worked with a large variety of museums and collections for more than 20 years. Peggy, who lives in Denver, Colorado, has a bachelor's degree in anthropology with minors in art history and geology from the University of Arizona in Tucson. She has a master's degree in anthropology with a minor in museum studies from the University of Colorado in Boulder and is a Certified Institutional Protection Manager II. She provides workshops and project services to museums and historical societies all across the country. The mission of Collections Research for Museums is to inspire museums to improve their professional standards, collections stewardship and service to their constituency through training in, and assistance with, documenting, preserving, protecting and managing their collections. For more information visit her web site Collections Research for Museums. Peggy is also the Publications Manager, Certificate Program Coordinator, and Course Monitor for Northern States Conservation Center and
October Courses
October 5 to 30, 2015
Instructor: Helen Alten
Every museum professional needs a solid foundation in preservation principles and techniques. Introduction to Collections Preservation provides an overview of current preservation issues from environmental monitoring to collection cleaning, exhibit mounts and storage furniture. Participants learn about every aspect of the modern museum and how the building, staff and fixtures affect preservation. Subjects include the agents of deterioration, risk management, object handling and transport, object labeling, exhibit lighting, security, emergency preparedness, materials for storage and display, storage and exhibit philosophies, and condition assessments.
October 5 to November 13, 2015
Instructor:  Karin Hostetter 
Nearly every museum develops exhibits, but how can we improve communication with visitors while taking care of our objects? Exhibit Fundamentals explores exhibits from idea to final installation in a variety of settings. Topics include exhibit theory, the role of the museum's mission, creating a timeline, accessibility and script writing. Also covered are design elements, installation techniques, object safety and security, visitor safety and evaluations. Each student develops an exhibit plan for his or her museum.
October 5 to November 6, 2015
Instructor:  Sue Near
Sound business practices are critical for a museum to fulfill its mission. Sounds like vegetables, right? Museum management is complex. A museum exists to preserve collections and educate, but it is also an institution that must employ sound business practices while being accountable to the public as a non-profit organization. Instructor Sue Near teaches participants how to administer a successful museum efficiently and effectively. Participants will engage in discussions about the changing cultural climate and its effect on museum operations.
October 5 to 30, 2015
Instructor: Helen Alten
Applying Numbers to Collection Objects covers the materials and methods of object numbering: registration, handling, labeling and marking, number placement, documentation, health and safety, transponders and barcodes, surface marks, inks, paints and barrier coats. Each participant receives a Northern States Conservation Center collections labeling kit and performs experiments using its contents. Participants learn to determine what pen, ink, barrier coat or tag is appropriate for each object and storage or display situation.
NEW DATES: October 12- November 20th
Instructor:  Victoria Montana Ryan
Caring for paintings requires some knowledge of the component structure of paintings and the reaction of those components to both natural and man-made environments. This course looks at the painting structure, the effects of damaging environments, and proposes simple steps for basic care. Topics include the structure of paintings, proper condition reporting with standard damage vocabulary, and basic care and handling including environments, storage, and transport. The course is intended to help those entrusted with the care of paintings in any environment.
October 5 to November 13, 2015
Instructor: Tom Bennett
Sprucing up your exhibits with safe, effective, inexpensive mounts can be easier and more fun than you thought. With a few tools, good technique and a bit of practice, you will be well on the way to presenting your objects in their most interesting light, with an eye on long-term safety and security. Design and Construction of Exhibit Mounts presents the basics of mountmaking for the small to medium-sized museum including tools, techniques and materials. Be prepared to construct mounts during the course. Students will be sent a list of materials and tools to acquire before the course commences. Come along and exercise your creative side while doing the collection a world of good.
MS 001: The Problem with Plastics
October 19 to 23, 2015
Instructor: Diana Komejan
As we march boldly toward the 22nd century, artifact collecting includes that most fragile of materials - plastic. Not only is it in our collections, but it is used to house our collections, too. What problems have you seen? What problems have others seen? What materials are best? What can we, as caretakers, do to minimize long-term damage? Join Diana in this mini-course for discussing care and deterioration of plastics. Bring any questions you have about plastics in your museum.
October 26 to 30, 2015
Instructor: Karin Hostetter
What do you do with collection objects that no longer belong in the scientific collection but are too good to throw out? What do you do with the donations that just don't quite 'fit?' Use them in education collections. Their value as educational objects for the public is immeasurable.

November Courses
November 2 to 30, 2015
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.
November 2 to 30, 2015
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.
November 2 to 30, 2015
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.
November 2 to December 29, 2015
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.
November 2 to December 11, 2015
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.
November 9 to 13, 2015
Instructor: Terri Schindel
Disaster planning is overwhelming. Where do you start? Talk to Terri about how to get going. Use her checklist to determine your level of preparedness. What do you already have in place? Are you somewhat prepared? What can you do next? Help clarify your current state of readiness and develop future steps to improve it.
November 9 to 13, 2015
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  


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

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


Helen Alten, Director

Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager