November 15, 2015      
Northern States Conservation Center Northern States
Conservation Center

The Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter

The Change of Seasons   

In This Issue
January 2016 courses
Regional Workshops
Conferences and Meetings
Submissions and Comments
Preparing for the Change of Seasons
Risks in Seasonal Museums
February 2016 Courses

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 January 2016 courses is December 7, 2015.

Upcoming Classes
Museum Microclimates

A microclimate is the environment immediately surrounding an artifact. Microclimates designed for optimum storage, display, or treatment conditions can be created and maintained in showcases, storage cabinets, rooms, or plastic bags. This course covers the basics of creating and maintaining microclimates, including discussions of suitable enclosures and appropriate means of controlling humidity, temperature, pollution, and oxygen. Learn what constitutes a microclimate, how to use silica gel and other environmental control materials, how to reduce internally generated pollutants, and techniques for monitoring the microclimate you have created.

Join Jerry Shiner January 4, 2016 for this informative course: MS242 Museum Microclimates 
January Courses
January 4 to January 29, 2016
Instructor: Peggy Schaller
Collections management is a critical component of running a museum. Most museums have collections and these collections drive the public functions and activities of the institution. Collections management is the physical and intellectual management of these items. In this course we will examine how information is collected and recorded for each object brought into the collection - a process called registration. We will also examine the policies that govern what is brought into the collection, including the most important piece of institutional policy--the museum mission statement. These policies are assembled into the collections management 'bible'--the registration manual. At the end of this course you should have a clear understanding of how and why collections are documented in museums and the governing principles that drive daily museum activities.
January 4 to January 29, 2016
Instructor: Helen Alten
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.
January 4 to January 29, 2016
Instructor: Karin Hostetter
So much to say and so little space in which to say it. That is the dilemma when scripting an exhibition. How do you say what needs to be said in the space available? How do you even figure out how to limit the information in the first place? Discover the value of themes, tangibles, intangibles, and universals in writing exhibit text that visitors really want to read -- and remember. Additional resources provided on font size and colors as well as label layout.
January 4 to January 29, 2016
Instructor: Jerry Shiner
A microclimate is the environment immediately surrounding an artifact. Microclimates designed for optimum storage, display, or treatment conditions can be created and maintained in showcases, storage cabinets, rooms, or plastic bags. This course covers the basics of creating and maintaining microclimates, including discussions of suitable enclosures and appropriate means of controlling humidity, temperature, pollution, and oxygen. Learn what constitutes a microclimate, how to use silica gel and other environmental control materials, how to reduce internally generated pollutants, and techniques for monitoring the microclimate you have created.
Museum Materials Sample Booklet
Museum Materials Sample Booklet
Ordering archival supplies can be difficult and confusing. This booklet provides sample materials of the most common supplies currently offered and discusses how they are used in museums. Organized by function, the booklet covers rigid materials, padding materials, ties and attachments, barrier materials and "bad" materials.
Museum Materials sample booklet
Regional Workshops

Where you can find some of our instructors in 2015:

Stevan P. Layne

  • Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver, CO, December 17, 2015
Management of Aggressive Behavior (MOAB) Introductory Class
  • Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver, CO, December 18, 2015

Conferences and Meetings

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

Association of Academic Museums and Galleries
Washington DC
May 24-25, 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

Society of American Archivists
Joint Annual Meeting of the Council of State Archivists and Society of American Archivists
Atlanta, GA
July 31, 2016 - August 6, 2016

American Association of State and Local History
Detroit, Michigan
September 14-17, 2016

Western Museums Association
Phoenix, AZ
September 25-28, 2016.  
Southeastern Museums Conference
Charlotte, NC
October 10-12, 2016
Mountain-Plains Museums Association
Oklahoma City
October 23-27, 2016

National Association for Interpretation
Corpus Christi, Texas 
November 8-12, 2016
New England Museum Association
2016 Annual Conference
Mystic, CT
November 9-11, 2016

Society of American Archivists
2017 Annual Meeting
Portland, OR
July 23 - 29, 2017

Southeastern Museums Conference
2017 Annual Meeting
New Orleans, LA 
September 11-13, 2017

New England Museum Association
2017 Annual Conference
North Falmouth, MA
October 25-27, 2017
National Association for Interpretation
Spokane, Washington
November 14-18, 2017

Society of American Archivists
2018 Annual Meeting
Washington, DC
August 12- 18, 2018
Southeastern Museums Conference
2018 Annual Meeting
Jackson, MS
October 8-10, 2018
National Association for Interpretation
Dates and location TBD
November 2018
National Association for Interpretation
Denver, Colorado
November 12-16, 2019

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

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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.
Preparing for the change of seasons
By Peggy Schaller
Whether you are operating a seasonal museum or a year round museum it is important to make sure your facility is ready for the change of seasons. Whether you operate in the colder northern climes or in the year-round warmth of the tropical climes, it is important to make sure your facility is in good shape.
Preventing problems before they occur is the heart of good facilities and collections management for museums. There are four key elements that work in tandem to keep your facility and collection safe.
  • Avoid: Examine the potential threats and work to avoid them. Move collections away from water sources--water pipes; from under bathrooms; out of basements. Remove trash daily and clean food spills immediately to eliminate food sources for pests.
  • Block: Seal all cracks in the foundation; around windows and skylights; make sure doors close securely and have door sweeps to prevent ingress of pests, dust, dirt and water.   Filter and/or block UV light from impacting collections. Perform regular maintenance on your facility.
  • Detect: Use fire detection systems; temperature and humidity monitors; monitor light levels within the facility, and use sticky/blunder traps to monitor pest activity. Maintain good security throughout the building with good locks (be sure they are locked!); key control; and, if you can afford them, good security systems that include alarms (interior and exterior); motion sensors; and CCTV cameras attached to a recording device (make sure the image that you record can actually be identified!). Both during open hours and off-season conduct 'walkabouts' within and outside the museum to check for anything out of the ordinary. When the museum is open, use this technique to interact with your visitors and answer questions or concerns. You don't need a guard force to do this, make this part of your staff duties.
  • Respond: Use fire suppression systems to respond to detection alarms. Fix leaks in roofs, skylights, and make sure gutters and downspouts work properly to drain water away from the building. Address any and all maintenance and security issues immediately once discovered.
Holistic Approach
Preparing your facility and collection for seasonal changes requires a holistic approach and evaluation of your entire facility inside and out. Work from the outside in and examine your Site; Building; Room; Exhibit and Storage furniture; Enclosures and Individual supports and Policies and Procedures.
  • Site:  Where you are located geographically can increase or diminish the risks to your facility and collection. Are you located near a water source or in a flood plain? Is your area prone to dangerous weather--tornadoes; hurricanes; heavy winds; freezing weather; large snow falls; ice storms, etc.?   Once the potential risks are identified, begin to address how you can mitigate them. If you are a seasonal museum in an area where the winters are cold and snow and wind are normal, you will need to make sure that your facility is accessible to caretakers, staff, and first responders throughout the winter. Roads and walkways will need to be kept clear and safe.
  • Building:  Perform an inspection of the exterior of the building. Look at the roof, gutters, foundation, windows, decks and porches to make sure they are all properly maintained and do not exhibit any damage. Review the interior of the building for signs of damage or leakage. Look at the walls, crawlspaces and basements, and attics for signs of water damage or pest activity. Check the mechanical systems to make sure they are all operating properly. This includes the HVAC system, electrical systems (check for frayed wires, overloaded outlets, and proper breakers or fuses), and plumbing (check for leaks in pipes, fittings, and in and around toilets). Be sure your fire suppression and detection systems and your intrusion alarms are functioning properly. Smoke and intrusion alarms should be monitored and hardwired with battery backups. Be sure fire extinguishers are present and charged. Check the grounds immediately around the building. Make sure the water flows away from the foundation; sprinklers don't hit the building walls; drains are functioning properly; and vegetation is away from the foundation (thick vegetation becomes a home for pests, cover for thieves, and sleeping places for the homeless).
  • Room:  Examine your storage and exhibit spaces for signs of infestation or water leakage. Check lighting for UV filtration and intensity. Keep lights off in storage areas when not in use. Keep lighting at appropriate levels in exhibition spaces when open and off when closed (the only exception would be emergency lighting for security cameras). Filter or block light from exterior windows (use pull down shades; shims; curtains; UV filter or filtering Plexiglas; or completely block windows). Make sure you have a good housekeeping plan for storage as well as the exhibition and office spaces using proper methodologies and materials. Look for overloaded outlets, space heaters, coffeemakers and other small appliances and make sure they are unplugged. Prohibit eating, drinking and any form of food in collection areas and exhibit spaces. Clean break rooms and take food trash out daily.
  • Exhibit and Storage Furniture:  Cabinets, shelving, and display cases should be made from safe and inert materials and appropriate for the objects stored/exhibited on or in them.
  • Enclosures and Supports:  Be sure the enclosures used for storing collection items are appropriate for the item(s) and made from safe and inert materials (acid-free, lignin-free boxes; safe plastic bags and containers). Individual supports (mounts and foam cavities) for objects should be properly fitted to and appropriate for each object. Supports must also be made from safe and inert materials and properly padded to prevent damage to the object.
  • Policies and Procedures:  Clear written policies and procedures are the final step in preparing your facility and collection for seasonal changes and during year-round operations. A short list of vital procedures includes: Maintenance; Housekeeping; Integrated Pest Management (IPM); Security; Fire Protection (detection and prevention); Emergency Preparation and Response; Handling; Packing; and Training.
Seasonal Facilities: Special considerations
If you operate a seasonal museum, be sure to remove or protect (containerize in pest proof boxes) organic materials stored or on display in your facility during the off-season. Block all ingress points for pests (both insect and mammal) to prevent damage to interior surfaces and collections. No matter how well you feel these points have been blocked, there is still a possibility that something will get in. Therefore, removing and protecting your organic collections is critical to preventing damage to them over the off-season.
Arrange for staff or a caretaker to visit the site daily, if possible, during the off-season and make sure to visit as soon as possible after any significant weather event to check for damage. Make sure the roads and walkways are cleaned of debris, snow and ice so that first responders have access to the property if required.
Maintenance, vigilance and good written policies and procedures are critical components to keeping your facility and collections safe and secure throughout the year.
MS219: Opening and Closing Seasonal Museums  Instructor: Fiona Graham

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
Risks in Seasonal Museums
By Fiona Graham
This article will highlight the risks that are particularly relevant to seasonal museums. Before pointing out the drawbacks, however, we should understand some of the benefits that seasonal museums enjoy with regard to collection preservation.
Reduced light exposure
Where there are no visitors or staff, there is no need for light. Display rooms can be kept dark for the duration of the off-season, with the exception of inspection visits. This is a tremendous reduction in light exposure compared to displays that must be lit twelve months of the year. The fading of light-sensitive artifacts is reduced by at least half, assuming a seasonal museum is closed for a minimum 6 months per year.
Reduced chemical deterioration
In regions with cold winters, and where facilities are not heated, organic artifacts such as paper and textiles are given a break from chemical deterioration. With each temperature drop of 5 degrees, the usable lifetime of organic materials is doubled. In other words, a collection of newspapers that would become unusable in 20 years at a temperature of 25 degrees C (77 degrees F) would last 160 years at 10 degrees C (50 degrees F).
Remember that contrary to human beings, most museum collection materials are not harmed by cold or freezing temperatures. This information should be a great relief to museums with unheated buildings in cold winter climates. Do not forget the shortlist of items that should NOT be frozen[i], however, and be sure to remove these from the building into heated off-site storage during closing procedures.
Reduced handling
Apart from the slight increase in handling related to moving artifacts during opening and closing procedures, collections in seasonal museums are generally handled less over the course of a year than those in year-round museums. This applies to handling (permitted or not) by visitors as well as by staff. As the risk of physical damage increases every time an artifact is handled, this is a benefit to collections in seasonal museums.
Reduced pilfering
In the same way that the opportunity for inappropriate handling is reduced in seasonal museums, so is the opportunity for opportunistic theft (a.k.a. pilfering).
A balancing act
The trick to preserving collections in seasonal museums is to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks associated with the off-season. The following are the risks that should be managed with care.
Insurance policies may be ineffective when a museum is closed. Check your insurance policy to determine what the coverage is during the off-season. Sometimes coverage is invalidated if nobody conducts regular inspections of the facility. Talk to your insurance agent about what you can do to ensure continued coverage during the off-season.
Theft and vandalism
Many seasonal museums are located off the beaten track. Without the presence of people passing by, they are more vulnerable to break-ins and vandalism. Even museums that are located on main streets will have an increase in the risk of break-ins and vandalism since it is generally evident that they are unoccupied.
Storm damage
Storm damage is as likely to occur in year-round museums as it is in seasonal museums, but the difference may be that in seasonal museums the damage could remain undetected until the next off-season inspection. If the roof or windows have been compromised, a delay could mean significantly more damage to collections.
As hurricane and tornado season tends to coincide with the open season, these cannot be said to be greater risks for seasonal museums. It is interesting to note, however, that where museums are not damaged by hurricanes or tornados they sometimes become community hubs and shelters. Your museum may have an important role to play during local emergencies.
During cold winters, an unheated museum building may become damp. The same would be true for buildings in warmer regions where the air conditioning is turned off. Damp conditions can cause problems for collections. Metals can corrode, mould can form on organic materials such as leather and paper and on dirty inorganic materials such as stone, and insect pests can flourish. Moisture in the air can also condense on cooler surfaces resulting in more mould and corrosion, as well as bleeding colors in textiles and works on paper.
Closed museum buildings seem to be magnets for pests. Whether it is mice or snakes seeking protection from the harsh weather outside or insects flourishing uninterrupted in dark, dank corners, pests are a problem for seasonal museums. Historic buildings that are poorly sealed, such as log cabins or barns, are particularly at risk. Tasty collection items as well as favored nibbles such as candles and soap also serve as attractants.
The most common pests associated with museum collections in North America are:
  • Clothes moths - casemaking and webbing
  • Dermestid beetles - carpet (black, common, varied, furniture), hide, larder, leather
  • Other beetles - powderpost, furniture, Anobiid, house borers, drug store, cigarette
  • Silverfish and firebrats
  • Book lice
  • Cockroaches
  • Termites
  • Carpenter ants
The risk of your museum catching fire may increase during the off-season due to arson, electrical storms or other factors. Even if the risk of fire remains the same, the risk of damage due to fire may increase due to a longer response time. Assuming there is no sprinkler system in place, nobody will be there to use fire extinguishers so a fire is likely to spread further than it might otherwise before the fire department arrives. Once the fire department arrives, they may be delayed in reaching the building if access is blocked by snow or a locked gate.

Paintings, wax artifacts, minerals, and fossils

Excerpt from Opening and Closing Seasonal Museums 

Fiona Graham is an accredited professional conservator (CAPC) offering bilingual (English & French) services in preventive conservation and heritage restoration to the museum and heritage field. Her areas of expertise include; preventive conservation in facility design and operations, specifications and project management for conservation projects, metals conservation, pest management, condition surveys, emergency planning, and policies and procedures. She is currently a Conservator at Goldsmith Borgal & Company Ltd. Architects, a Tutor at Athabasca University and the Course Director for the Ontario Museum Association.
February Courses
February 1 to 26, 2016
Instructor: Kimberly Kenney
Description: The United States has more than 17,000 museums, we can only guess at the world's total. While most people think of a museum as a well-staffed, professionally run institution, the vast majority of museums are started and run by people with little or no basic training in museum studies or preservation. Introduction to Museums is designed to change that. The course introduces basic concepts, terminology and the role of various staff members, including curators, registrars and directors. Introduction to Museums is aimed at staff members, board members, interns, volunteers, as well as anyone interested in becoming a museum professional or learning more about the profession.
February 1 to 26, 2016
Instructor:  Stevan Layne
World events continually remind us just how important security is. The FBI and Interpol databases record thefts from small rural museums and world renowned art collections. The prevalence of collections lost to theft is brought home to us with regular sensational newspaper stories. And then there are the internal thefts, fires, and collection vandalism that also result in loss. Security must be a priority for every museum, regardless of size. Introduction to Security teaches basic, practical approaches to protecting against threats such as theft, vandalism, violent acts, natural disasters, fire and environmental hazards. Topics include selecting security systems, determining security needs and how to build affordable security systems. Screening, hiring, firing, workplace violence, policies and procedures and emergency management planning are covered as well.
February 1 to 26, 2016
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.
MS 219: Opening and Closing Seasonal Museums
February 1 to 26, 2016
Instructor:  Fiona Graham
The seasonal closure of a museum presents unique challenges and opportunities for collection preservation. This is an introductory-level conservation course exploring simple collection preservation methods for seasonal museums. The target Audience for the course is curators and other museum personnel, volunteers, site managers, maintenance personnel. No prior conservation training necessary. Participants will learn about the challenges and opportunities associated with caring for collections in seasonal facilities. They will learn about the risks to collections and how to mitigate them through closing and re-opening procedures, as well as throughout the winter season.
MS 227: Care of Paintings
February 1 to March 11, 2016
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.
February 1 to 26, 2016
Instructor:  Karin Hostetter
The world of museum education is as varied as the imagination. From school field trips to online blogs, from 2-year-olds to senior citizens, and from formal programs to volunteering, it is all part of the educational delivery system of a museum. In Education in Museums, survey the education programs offered at your site. Determine what exhibits and collections need better representation through education. Develop a long term plan of education program development for your site that you can use to improve services to your community.
February 1 to March 11, 2016
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.
February 1 to 26, 2016
Instructor: Karl Hoerig
Retail stores play central roles in museum operations. Most museum managers and their boards or tribal councils recognize stores' revenue potential. But stores can also help serve the museum's educational mission, support perpetuation and revitalization of traditional arts, and impact audiences beyond the museum's doors. Utilizing expert perspectives and examples from diverse museum stores this course will explain why a museum store should not be just a "gift shop" and will present guidance on inventory management, buying and pricing, retail display, staff training and other administrative issues faced by museum store managers.
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