October 15, 2015      
Northern States Conservation Center Northern States
Conservation Center

The Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter


In This Issue
Regional Workshops
Conferences and Meetings
Submissions and Comments
Starting a Volunteer Program
To Screen or NOT to Screen..Shouldn't be a question!
November 2015 and January 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 museumclasses.org 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: http://www.collectioncare.org/course-list  


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


The Early Bird Discount deadline for January 2016 courses is December 7, 2015.

Upcoming Classes
The Volunteer Handbook

The Volunteer Handbook

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.

Join Karin Hostetter on November 2, 2015 and create your own Volunteer Handbook. 
Preserving Textiles: A Guide for the Nonspecialist
Preserving Textiles: A Guide for the Nonspecialist
Author: Harold Mailand and Dorothy Stites Alig. This recently revised book is the clearest textile care publication available. Gives an overview of how textiles are damaged and what can be done to stop or slow the damage. In-depth information on cleaning, storing and displaying textiles. Excellent color plates. 92 pp
Preserving Textiles: A Guide for the Nonspecialist
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 
Regional Workshops

Where you can find some of our instructors in 2015:

Stevan P. Layne
Western Museums Association  
  • 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
Photograph Conservation Workshop for Book and Paper Conservators
Conferences and Meetings
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

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

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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.
Starting a Volunteer Program
By Peggy Schaller
Starting a volunteer program is not as simple as 'get the word out and they will come'. Some planning and preparations are needed to get such a program off the ground and make it successful.
First thing you must do is have a plan. Identify the purpose of your volunteer program and the jobs that the volunteers will be doing. What are your institutions needs? What are your goals for the institution? Create a list of needs that will help your institution move forward. What needs to be done; in what areas of the museum do you need help; how can volunteers help address those needs? Will you provide reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses and/or public liability and personal accident insurance for your volunteers? Once your needs are identified, what skills do you need to look for in your staff and volunteers to address those needs.
Create a written job description for each position, need or skill set that you are looking for. This should be as detailed as a job description for a paid staff position and include the physical needs; personality traits needed; the job title of the person supervising the applicant; hours and times for the work; dress code; how hours are reported; required training and any other pertinent information required of the applicant.
The job description will help determine where you will advertise and who might be the best fit for each position or task you need help with.
As you create your plan you are also creating a set of skills that you need to accomplish the jobs/tasks identified in your plan. Create a skills assessment matrix that will use those identified skills to determine the best fit for each job or task. For each identified skill create a series of questions to gauge which applicant would have the skills to do the required task. Many individuals do not know or recognize all of the skills they possess until you sit down with them and ask. Make sure the questions require more than a yes or no answer so there is a discussion taking place that is helping people recognize the skills that they may have. This discussion can take place as a one on one exercise or can be done as a group that includes paid staff and board members as well as volunteers. This discussion should benefit the institution by matching what you have with what you need. Approach this discussion with sensitivity to create a sense of goodwill which will help get the information you need to move forward.
Proper management of your volunteer program is essential to making this all work. Management must recognize and utilize the time, skills, commitment and experience of volunteers and adopt a simple and open management style that is effective and retains spontaneity. Develop policies and procedures that are based on an understanding of volunteering and that encourage cooperation, mutual trust, and enjoyment between volunteers, paid staff, and management. Ensure that the achievements of the program match the agreed upon targets for the institution as a whole.
Management also needs to be certain that training is available for volunteers who need it to fulfill certain jobs within the museum where they may not have full mastery of all the nuances of the job.
So what are some of the duties that volunteers are or could be called upon to perform for an institution? Museum board and committee positions are usually voluntary positions. Volunteers could be called upon to act as docents in the galleries or to give tours of living history or house museums. They can work at the front desk, in the gift shop or in the office. Board members and volunteers may have skills that can help with fundraising or special events. Or maybe they would be interested in helping put out the institution's newsletter, manage the social media sites, or work with public relations activities. Volunteers can be trained to help paid staff with the collections documentation; exhibit preparations; and preventive conservation tasks, such as proper cleaning methods for the museum's public areas or collections. They may be called upon to help with maintenance of the buildings or grounds. Many opportunities exist for volunteer help in museums.
Consider the makeup of your volunteer corp. Are you looking for a cross-section of your local demographic? Do you want a mix of women and men; different age groups? Who might be best suited to the jobs and tasks identified in your needs assessment?
So does the museum take anyone who applies to become a volunteer? Not necessarily. An individual may not have the skills needed for the jobs available and volunteers need to be screened just like any other employee of the institution (see To Screen or not to screen below). Be sure to match the prospective volunteer with the skills, his/her personality, and availability with the job description and match your needs and expectations with those of the volunteer.
Once the volunteers are on board, then what? Have an initial orientation for all new volunteers as you do for new paid staff. Be sure the written policies and procedures are available in an Employee Handbook or Volunteer Handbook. This handbook should be available to every volunteer and should be part of the orientation. Make sure that training is provided in the overall functioning of the museum and that specific training is available for those whose tasks require it. The orientation should stress a team approach within the organization and outline the methods for communication, supervision, support, and review. Include scheduling and expectations for each job. Take a tour of the facility and introduce the new volunteers to the staff and established volunteers. Include health and safety instructions and make sure each new volunteer has an understanding of the emergency response plan and their role(s) should an incident occur. Match long-serving volunteers with new recruits to help orient the new volunteer to their duties for the first few months. If this is a new volunteer program, match staff with the new volunteers to mentor them.
Stress the importance of teamwork throughout the institution and foster a feeling of mutual trust and respect for all staff--paid or volunteer. Create an atmosphere of working toward a common goal and recognition and appreciation of everyone's contribution. Ask for suggestions and comments from new and existing staff and volunteers to ensure that all feel they have a voice.
Understand the time commitment asked of your volunteers and the importance of recognition on the part of the institution for all the hard work put in by the volunteers. Recognition of volunteers and staff can be a very powerful motivator. Create opportunities to recognize each individual's hard work in formal and informal ways--recognition and thank you dinners or outings; token gifts or pins for set numbers of hours worked (yearly or cumulative); certificates for jobs well done. There are lots of creative ways to say thank you. Make sure you DO say thank you!
It takes work to build and maintain a volunteer program, but if well planned once you build it they will come.
Nine steps to a better volunteer program, part 2 of 5, By Karin Hostetter and Gary Outlaw, Legacy, March/April 2003.
Assessing Skills and Training Needs, reCollections, Australian Museums publication
Managing Volunteers, reCollections, Australian Museums publication
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 and Certificate Program Coordinator for Northern States Conservation Center and museumclasses.org.
Learn more by joining Karin Hostetter in her volunteer courses:  MS108 Fundamentals of Museum Volunteer Programs and MS259 The Volunteer Handbook
To Screen, or NOT to Screen....Shouldn't be a question!
By Stevan P. Layne, CPP, CIPM, CIPI
Founding Director, IFCPP
I once asked a museum director if his institution did background screening on its volunteers. "Are you crazy," he replied. "If we did that, we wouldn't have any volunteers."   I'm not sure if that was an indication that none of them would pass the screen, or if none of them would submit to it.  
All of us recognize the many benefits a strong volunteer program brings to an institution. In many places, volunteers far outnumber paid staff.   Without the work they provide, some programs could conceivably be lost.   We forget, however, that volunteers are just "people." And people, given the right opportunity, steal. People, with the proper motivation, take advantage of other people...financially, physically, or even sexually.   It logically follows, therefore, that any "people" brought into the workforce, regardless of whether or not they are compensated, should undergo a reasonable screening of their background and character. This is exactly the language used by the courts in examining cases of negligent hiring.   We screen to protect the good people in the workforce, visitors, and other volunteers, from being subjected to or exposed to those who would take advantage of them, or cause harm.
The level or depth of the screening should be dependent on the applicant's exposure to people and access to assets.   ALL applicants should undergo a thorough check for criminal histories. It should be asked on the application and verified by a records check. This may be done directly through the courts or through a professional background service.
If the applicant is serving to greet guests, has access to no keys, assets, or classes with minor children, then minimal screens may be performed.   The information on the application needs to be verified. If a falsehood is discovered, the process is over and the application should be denied. This includes employment history, driving record, education, licenses or certifications held. Credit histories should be performed on all of those persons who will handle cash or accessioned artwork.
Everyone should be able to account for their time, for no less than the past ten years. You have to be somewhere....gainfully employed, in school, in the military, undergoing health care...or in prison.   Some records must exist, somewhere, which verifies this existence. Women who were married and not employed should have access to tax records showing a joint return for the time period in question.
If volunteers are asked to perform certain tasks with special knowledge or education, they should be trained identically to paid employees who perform those tasks. The bottom line...Volunteers are worth their weight in gold. Just be sure they're not taking the gold with them....
Stevan P. Layne is the principal consultant and chief executive of Layne Consultants International, a leading provider of cultural property protection advice. Steve is a former police chief, public safety director and museum security director. He is the author of Safeguarding Cultural Properties: Security for Museums, Libraries, Parks and Zoos, and the Business Survival Guide. Steve regularly presents to professional associations and has consulted with more than 400 museums and other institutions. Steve is the founding director of the International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection and responsible for the professional training and certification of more than 1,000 museum professionals. For more information visit his web site  Layne Consultants International.
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 11, 2015
Instructor:  Helen Alten
Prior to the invention of plastics, skin materials were the flexible covering used for most objects - from bellows to books, carriages to desktops. Furs and skins are in almost every museum's collection, be it Natural History, History or Art. Caring for leather and skin materials demands an understanding of how and why they deteriorate. Care of Leather and Skin Materials offers a simplified explanation of the origin, chemistry and structure of leathers and skins. Students learn to identify leathers and surface finishes, determine their extent of deterioration, write condition reports, and understand the agents of deterioration that are harmful to leather and skins both in storage and on exhibit. Topics include preparing hide and skin materials for storage and exhibit, the use of archival materials and which ones might harm skin proteins, housekeeping techniques for large objects or books on open display, and three-dimensional supports for leather and skin to keep them from distorting. Integrated pest management and historical treatments will be covered, with a unit on hazardous materials applied to older skins and leather that might prove a danger to staff.
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.

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.
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