AIC’s 40th Annual Meeting – Outreach to Allies Session, May 9, Collection Care Network Brainstorming Session: Table 5 – Alexander Architectural Archive Archivists

The last presentation of the Outreach to Allies Session at the AIC Annual Meeting 2012 was an interactive session organized by the Collection Care Network. The leadership team of the network designed it as a way to identify priorities and projects for the network. Imagine nine groups of 7 to 9 people sitting around tables discussing the content of a nine different short videos. Each video presented a collection-care challenge or question. The discussion aimed to suggest projects the Collection Care Network could develop that would provide tools to overcome the challenge or answer the question. Now imagine people engaged in conversation. So engaged they didn’t get up for food when asked to do so! So engaged they had to be asked a second time!! Now you have a very small idea of what the session was like. This particular post gives you more details about the discussion at Table 5. Look for the other 8 posts if you would like to review all the discussions.

Table Five: Working with archivists is very close to my heart, so I was very happy to moderate table 5.  Archivists must deal with masses of materials and a collections approach is the only thing that normally makes any sense for them.  As such, I see archivists as a perfect community to work with the collections conservation network.

The video: This video has three speakers, Nancy Sparrow, Curatorial Assistant for Public Service, Beth Dodd, Curator, and Donna Coates, Technical Services and Collections Manager for the Alexander Architectural Archive at the University of Texas at Austin.   Like many archives, they are never likely to have a full-time conservator on staff and they seek avenues to communicate with the conservation community.  Some of the specific issues they have right now are:

  • How much light exposure can be allowed for architectural linens?  They need more specific information than is given in the current NISO standards.
  • They need to display fragile, oversize materials periodically.  One iconic drawing on tracing paper is about 4′ x 8′, and needs to be displayed several times each year.  They  would like ideas or guidelines for handling the materials safely.
  • Can they, or the student workers who work with them, perform minor treatments, such as small mends and simple mold removal, in-house?  Can conservators provide guidelines for what can, and cannot be done in-house without a conservator on staff?

Each of the archivists in the video has great respect for conservators and would like a closer relationship with that community.

The discussion: The video prompted a lively discussion about the need to make straightforward, accessible information about conservation and preservation readily available to the public.  An interesting idea to come out of this session is working toward manning a “hot line” staffed by conservators.  The public could call in and get advice, and pay a fee when possible. In some cases, rather than being billed they might be sent a receipt for an in-kind donation that might be used toward a grant or another effort.  This might give the public access to conservation information and let them understand the cost associated with the information.

The ideas for Collection Care Network projects:

  • Use social networking tools to make information available.
  • Publish guidelines for care, display and handling.
  • Collections Link in the UK might provide some models for us to consider.

The contributors: Moderator – Karen Pavelka; Note Taker – Amanda Holden; Table participants -Kristen Adsit, Jane Hinger , Rustin Levenson, Josefina Lopez, Caroline Peach, David West