Safe and Secure Exhibition Practices
Welcome to the Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter from Northern States Conservation Center. The newsletter is designed to bring you timely and helpful content that is pertinent to situations we all encounter in our museum and archives work. Feel free to let us know what topics you would like to see featured in Collections Caretaker or even contribute an article.
In This Issue

Safe and Secure Exhibition Practices
Featured Course
August Online Courses
September Online Courses
Featured Product
Regional Workshops
Conferences and Meetings
Safe and Secure Exhibition Practices
By Peggy Schaller

In order to provide interesting and educational exhibits for your visitors and protect your collections and visitors, consider the following elements when planning and executing your exhibitions:
Exhibit furniture
Use exhibit furniture and materials that are safe for your collection items. Traditional wooden exhibit cases, particularly oak, are generally used in museums because they look nice. However, without being properly sealed these cases can actually be harmful to the objects you display in them. Wood gives off harmful acidic gasses that can increase the aging properties of many collection materials and oak is the worst of all. Be sure to place a protective barrier between your objects and the wooden floor of the case. Use a barrier material that will block the migration of the acids from the wood such as Polyester sheeting, Marvelseal, or aluminum foil. The wood can also be sealed using a moisture-cured polyurethane or latex paint, but these products must be allowed to dry completely and finish curing before artifacts are placed in the case. This process may take up to 3 to 4 weeks. Better choices for exhibition cases are powder-coated metal and glass cases or sealed wood bases with Plexiglas vitrines. Fabrics used in exhibition cases should be inert and un-dyed: polyester, cotton, linen, or a polyester-cotton blend. If you must use a colored fabric for esthetic reasons, test it for color fastness before using it. You do not want your exhibit fabric to bleed onto your objects if the humidity rises or there is a water incident. Artifact mounts should be made of safe materials and should properly support your objects. Mounts should be padded so as not to scratch or rub your objects. Metal mounts can scratch and corrosion can stain objects if they are not protected by polyester, polypropylene, or polyethylene tubing or other inert padding. Plexiglas can be used for mounts; be sure the cut edges are polished so they are no longer rough. Fabric or Tyvek covered polyethylene foam blocks or Backer rods can be fashioned into mounts for storage and exhibition.
Case Lighting
In-case lighting can raise the ambient temperature inside the case and lower the relative humidity such that your artifacts are affected to their detriment. Close-in lighting like this can also increase fading of artifacts like textiles and paper-based items. Florescent lighting must be filtered, inside or outside of the cases and incandescent lighting is extremely hot. Fiber optic lighting can be safely used inside a case as the heat source is away from the end of the light tube; however, the nearness and intensity of the light can still increase fading. Outside-the-case lighting is a better option if possible, but remember to filter for UV and limit the length and intensity of the exposure for optimal collection care. LED lights are now available for museum applications and can be a good choice.
Traffic Patterns
Plan an open traffic pattern for your exhibits. Make sure that there is enough room in the gallery for visitors to comfortably navigate around the exhibits and cases. Refer to the Americans with Disabilities Act for the proper path width so that disabled visitors in wheelchairs can negotiate your galleries. Always plan with ADA compliance in mind and make sure the exhibition cases are not too tall for children and people in wheelchairs; that wall cases and other design elements are not hazards for blind or limited vision visitors; and that your labels are readable by all visitors in terms of mounting height, print size; color combinations and location. Making the space around your cases wide enough to comply with ADA regulations will not only make the exhibit more enjoyable for all your visitors, it will make it less likely that the cases will be accidentally bumped because of close quarters. Bumped cases can cause artifact damage.
Security for exhibition galleries
Exhibit security is a very important element of any exhibition. Your exhibit cases must have good locks that are not easy to open. Alarmed cases are better if you have the funds to manage it. Open exhibits should be monitored closely and/or have perimeter alarms to alert staff when visitors get too close or attempt to remove items from the exhibit. They should also have a barrier to keep visitors from entering the area--stanchions are good; Plexiglas or other solid barriers are better. You might be surprised what visitors will do even when there is a barrier blocking their way! Watch out for the parent who lifts their child over the barrier to pet the buffalo, Mountain lion (big kitty) or touch an artifact! This is not only detrimental to the artifact, but can be dangerous for the child (ex. arsenic in animal mounts). Beyond the physical security of barriers, locks and alarms, and cameras, there is a simple and effective way of keeping your exhibition galleries safe. Even if you do not have the funds to have a full time security staff, your regular staff can take 'walkabouts' at irregular intervals around the galleries to survey what is happening. Walk around the museum and engage your visitors by asking if they are enjoying themselves and ask if they have any questions. An engaged and happy visitor is less likely to mess about with your collection than a visitor who thinks no one is watching.
Reprinted from Collections Research News Winter 2012-2013 from Collections Research for Museums.
More about Safe and Secure Exhibition Practices can be found in the following courses offered by Northern States Conservation Center's
Instructor: Stevan Layne
MS 233: Matting and Framing, August 1 to 26, 2016
Instructor: Tom Bennett
Instructor:  Helen Alten
Also check out our other upcoming courses below or 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. She teaches several courses for : MS103 The Basics of Museum Registration ; MS207 Collections Management: Cataloging your Collection ; MS267 Museum Ethics ; MS218 Collection Inventories and MS007 The Museum Mission Statement: Is it Really That Important? 
Early Bird Discounts Available for Full Length Courses
An Early Bird Discount is available for anyone who signs up for a full length course from 30 days prior to the start of that course.  
Sign up for a full length course up to 30 days prior to its start and save $100.00!
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 September courses is August 6, 2016. 
Featured Course: Introduction to Museum Security

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.

Join Stevan Layne for this informative course MS107: Introduction to Museum Security starting August 1, 2016.
August 2016 Courses
August 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.
August 1 to September 9, 2016
Instructor:  Helen Alten
Cobwebs in the gallery, dust on the dinosaur skeleton, mice in storage - a dirty museum results in poor visitor experience and poor collections preservation. In a museum, cleanliness really is next to godliness. Museum Cleaning Basics explores everything you need to know about cleaning your collections. Participants learn when to clean - and when not to clean. They also learn how to make those decisions. Topics range from basic housekeeping to specific techniques for specific objects. You will learn why cleaning is important and how to prevent damage when cleaning. We will look at specific techniques that minimize damage while getting the work done. And we will discuss when to call in a specialist, such as a conservator. Students will create a housekeeping manual for their institution.
August 1 to 26, 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.
August 1 to 26, 2016
Instructor: Tom Bennett
Matting and Framing teaches the materials and techniques of conservation-quality framing. For display, matting and framing provides both protective and aesthetic contributions to art on paper. Students will learn about different types of enclosures, different mat styles and cutting methods, the pros and cons of different backing boards and glazing, and different methods of attaching items to a mat, some of which do not involve adhering hinges to art on paper. Lectures, illustrations, product resources, and additional informational references will be provided.
August 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.
September 2016 Courses
September 19 to 23, 2016
Instructor:  Helen Alten
Whenever an object leaves or enters your museum, it should have a dated condition report completed. A condition report is so much more than "good" or "poor." Learn about different types of condition reports, what is essential and what is optional information in each, the function of a condition report, and how to use an online condition assessment tool.
September 5 to 30, 2016
Instructor:  Kimberly Kenney
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.
September 5 to 30, 2016
Instructor:  Helen Alten
One of the great benefits of the 21st century is the abundance of materials for storing and displaying collections. Materials for Storage and Display covers this vast array in detail. Lectures and handouts separate materials by properties: rigid, padding, barrier and attachments. Slide shows illustrate the use of each. The course emphasizes acid-free materials and how to retrofit less appropriate materials. Materials for Storage and Display keeps current with the latest materials available for preservation. Using material testing as a decision making tool is covered. Participants receive notebooks with samples of all of the materials discussed.
September 5 to 30, 2016
Instructor:  Karin Hostetter
Have you done some evaluation but did not get helpful information? Do you wish you could do evaluations, but think it is too hard or too expensive? Do you wonder how to get people to use an offered program more? Evaluations are feasible and easy. This course will help you determine what you really want to know, choose the right process to gather the information, develop meaningful questions, and figure out what the results tell you. Please have a program or text in mind (real or imagined) to work with during the course. Note: this course will not be looking at statistical analysis.
September 5 to 30, 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.
Featured Product

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

Regional Workshops
Where you can find some of our instructors in 2016:

Stevan P. Layne

  • Association of Midwest Museums, July 27, 2016
  • Association of Midwest Museums, July 28, 2016
  • Aspen, CO, August 28-31, 2016
  • Hosted by ASIS International and sponsored by the ASIS Cultural Properties Council, Orlando, FL, September 13, 2016
Conferences and Meetings

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

International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection, Aspen, Colorado
August 28-31, 2016
American Association of State and Local History, Detroit, Michigan
September 14-17, 2016
Alberta Museums Association, Calgary, Alberta
September 15 - 17, 2016
Oklahoma Museums Association, Bartlesville, Oklahoma
September 21-23, 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 for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, Denver, CO 
June 18-24, 2017

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

American Association for State and Local History, Austin, TX
September 6-9, 2017
Southeastern Museums Conference, 2017 Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA 
September 11-13, 2017

International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection, New Haven, CT
September 17-20, 2017

Western Museums Association, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Dates TBA 
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

Western Museums Association, Tacoma, WA
Dates TBA 
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?   
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