45th Annual Meeting – Collection Care Session, “Evaluation of climate control in Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History–energy consumption and risk assessment” by Lukasz Bratasz et al


Lukasz Bratasz et al presented about a risk assessment and recommendations made for storage of the collections at Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History.  Trying to get away from flat-lined standards, they are taking a risk management approach to most effectively spend their preservation resources in a pragmatic and sustainable way.  By doing a risk analysis and gathering data on current energy use across the campus (and comparing with some far-flung peers), a pretty stark result was revealed.  What struck me most about the presentation, the active question and answer period notwithstanding, was the confirmation of my gut feeling that chemical degradation is the most serious preservation risk that many collections face.  Yes, fires can be catastrophic and leaks happen frequently, but chemical degradation happens constantly and quietly at human-comfort temperature storage with extreme relative humidity swings, until one does an analysis like this and bring it to everyone’s attention.

In their relatively quickly assembled risk assessment, the notion of item value was disregarded and every item was assumed to have the same value.  This is appropriate for collections that are of value in the aggregate.  Some audience members found this to unrealistically skew the data, but I don’t have a problem with it.  It is always possible to add on the variable of value later, when one is ready to address multiple risks of similar likelihood and severity.  But to get the big picture, I think this kind of assessment is a good first step.  The most significant risks identified included mold growth, pest damage, chemical degradation, and mechanical damage.

The scope of the project was to analyze energy consumption and current environmental conditions, assess the preservation condition of the collections and determine the risks.  The risk assessment revealed that chemical degradation was two orders of magnitude above any of the other risks.  They found they could both address the most significant risk and save energy at the same time, so they prioritized on improving the climate for the collections.

Some of the comparisons for energy use seemed like apples and oranges (i.e. comparing a multi-use, aging building in New Haven with a relatively new passive-environment storage facility in Denmark).  However, it was clear that the aging building was wasting money and energy compared to other buildings at Yale.  This was due primarily to a high ventilation rate and constricted set points that did not allow for any floating.  In other words, they were bringing in too much fresh air, and keeping such a tight set point that they were constantly running the equipment to either heat or cool.  The rigid temperature set point combined with the uncontrolled humidity brought in by unnecessary fresh air meant that the indoor humidity ranged from 10-80%, extremes which cannot be safely tolerated by natural history collections without risk of mechanical damage.

They made the point that the collections had weathered temperature and humidity changes for years before the current flat-lined temperature was implemented, and thus the collections have been “proofed” and don’t require the flatlining.  Among my library conservation colleagues the proofing concept is not fully embraced…just because the mechanical damage hasn’t happened in the past, once chemical degradation has progressed to a certain point, mechanical damage due to the shock of a temperature or RH spike could still happen even to an aged object.  However, within a moderate range I suspect the Yale authors are right that some variation of temperature and humidity is not likely to cause damage.

The recommendations made were to move the most vulnerable ethnographic collections to cool storage, reduce the ventilation rate, adopt dual set point control (i.e. minimum and maximum rather than single point) for both temperature and relative humidity, control the relative humidity to eliminate the extremes, and evaluate the conditions according to long term temperature and relative humidity values.  While the recommendations at the end of this presentation did not emphasize energy savings, I’m guessing this was a selling point and was part of the bargain with facilities and administration, who juggle multiple priorities and are more likely to embrace a win-win solution.

45th Annual Meeting – Workshop, May 29, “Building Emergency Response Skills”

Three veteran National Heritage Responders delivered an emotional and highly persuasive workshop (abstract) during this year’s AIC Annual Meeting.  Susan Duhl, Bob Herskovitz and Ann Frellsen, having spent many hours of hard labor together in the field during disaster response, spoke seamlessly as a complementary team, not completing each other’s sentences, but oftentimes each other’s thoughts.  They mentioned having lived together in an RV in Louisiana, smelly and tired…and clearly they have cleaned up their act and can take this show on the road.

As an active collections emergency responder for a large academic library institution, here are my key takeaways:

When responding to a disaster, we need to get to know local government agents, whose word is law and yet whose language is foreign to most conservators.  We can prepare for this by taking the FEMA Incident Command training, which introduces the vocabulary and the hierarchy of the world of the First Responders.  What we’ll get out of it is the ability to communicate with others and to understand our roles.  By the way, conservators are NOT First Responders…that term is reserved for the fire, police, National Guard and other official personnel whose priority is human safety.

Personal health has to be our #1 priority, because we’re no good to anyone if we’re injured or sick.  When there’s no electricity, there’s no Nilfisk, no fume hood, no suction disk, no light table…so we are going to McGyver our way through this thing with all our appropriate PPE on at all times.  Fresh air and sunlight go a long way when the alternative is standing in the dark, knee-deep in “mud.”  (I put that in quotes because the components of disaster area mud should be assumed to be everything you don’t ever want to ingest.)

Mental health of those around you is going to be a bigger concern than you expect or, indeed, want.  You can provide the sympathetic shoulder, the gentle persuasion to take a break, or even the diplomatic persuasion to a leader to move sideways and let someone else shoulder that burden for a while.  It can be hard to wrap one’s mind around saving cultural heritage when people around you have lost homes and loved ones, but in fact our role in rescuing their patrimony contributes to their healing.

Conservators with a bit of grit can survive and, in fact, thrive, in the extreme environment of disaster response.  We have to “think outside the lab,” and get creative to make the best use of what is available.  To take on leadership roles in a disaster response we have to stay calm and focused, and accept that we are surrounded by confusion.  We may be the only ones on site who know how to assess what is possible and what is practical. But we also tend to become superheroes and work to long and too hard.  I am really grateful for the specific language the instructors modeled for how to remove an Incident Commander (let’s get used to that ICS term for team leader) whose energy if not competence is flagging. “How are you doing?  You’re doing such a great job!  I notice you’re looking a little tired.  You’ve been working really hard.  What we really need right now is someone to sit down over here and fill out this inventory…can you help out with that?  One of us can hold the radio for a little while.”  You can’t just kick them out…instead, move them sideways, and then they’ll see that everything is going to be ok, and they can take a real break without feeling like they’ve abandoned their responsibility.

Our fearless leaders gave a lot of good tips and tricks.  Here is a sampling:

  • A Uhaul makes a decent workspace during the day and secure storage at night.
  • Don’t touch sooty things…any contact embeds the soot.
  • Fire extinguisher powder is corrosive and in a damp environment (i.e. from putting out the fire) it can become intractable.
  • Got earthquake?…Bring Ziplocs to keep the parts together.
  • Just say no to the “natural oils” used by some vendors for deodorizing; zeolytes work well, and charcoal is ok. Ozone oxidizes collections as well as odors, and should be avoided.
  • Also say no to vacuum thermal drying.
  • Don’t pump out a basement until the floodwaters have receded, or the hydrostatic pressure from the outside water could collapse the foundation.
  • Need weights?  Try double-Ziplock-bagged water, which conforms well to 3D surfaces.
  • Document anything that is being discarded so insurance will pay for it.
  • The answer to the question “How much mold is there?” is: “Yes.”

Want to be a part of this action?  Well, some of the National Heritage Responders are nearing retirement, so new recruits will be needed.  You need training first, and experience second.  Take FEMA’s ICS 100.b online training.  Watch Tara Kennedy’s Facebook Live recording on working with disaster recovery vendors.  Go to your regional Alliance For Response group (might be under a different name…ask the AIC Office) to join up with a local training opportunity.  And get to know the National Heritage Responders in your area…let them know you’re willing and able to respond.

Thank you to this team of veterans who have saved so many collections, and are now sharing what they know to give us all the tools to respond effectively.

P. S. I also attended the National Heritage Responders meeting after the workshop, and witnessed the official retirement announcement for Bob Herskovitz.  He’s retiring to his boat, so the group gave him a life preserver emblazoned with the name of his boat, “Ça Va Encore Bien.”

Joint 44th AIC Annual Meeting and 42nd CAC-ACCR Conference – Pre-session, May 13, “Share the Care: Collaborative Preservation Approaches, a Joint AIC /IAMFA Meeting” by Priscilla Anderson, Dawn Walus, and Patricia Miller.

Image of powerpoint slide with text "Collaboration is not about gluing together existing egos. It's about the ideas that never existed until after everyone entered the room."
Credit: Sarah Stauderman

This pre-session was a joint meeting between conservation professionals and facilities engineers, architects, and administrators who belong to the International Association of Museum Facility Administrators. The topic of the day was how to foster a collegial and collaborative working relationship between conservation and facilities staff so together we can preserve collections with well-managed storage and exhibition facilities. The day was structured in three sections, each with a panel of experts and a tabletop exercise. The three of us attended, and agreed to blog together as the day was jam-packed with inspiration and useful tips. We were hoping to learn strategies for building relationships with our facilities managers, including developing common language, shared understanding of goals, and respecting each other’s areas of expertise.
The first session, Share the Risk: Collaborative approaches to facilities construction, renovation, and operation was moderated by Joelle Wickens, (Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library). Key takeaways from this session were that no one person owns a facilities problem, and monthly meetings, meaningful and well-planned monthly meetings, are a good strategy for building relationships that successfully address the inevitable problems. Out of work time is also important…sharing a beer with each other was mentioned throughout the day as a way to break down those silo walls.
Image of workshop participants witting around a round table talking and laughing
Image courtesy of P. Anderson

Panelists included Jack Plumb (National Library of Scotland), John Castle and Lois Price (Winterthur), Rob Waller (Protect Heritage Corp), and Deborah Potter (Tate). One of Jack’s tips was to build in an orientation for new contractors with collections care to explain the local policies and behavior expectations that might be different from one jobsite to another. Jack also has a very interesting program for doing temperature and humidity mapping research using students from Heriot Watt University doing their dissertations. I wanted to know more about this program, and how to find students that are interested in this work!
Lois Price and John Castle got an NEH Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections grant to improve their wireless building management system, and in the process, found that the working relationships between conservation and facilities staff, and each assumptions made about each other, were not so productive. So they set about doing a qualitative survey of their peers across the world, and they reported the results to us. The data set is rich, with lots of variable possible including institutional budget, frequency of joint meetings, rate of success, and decision-making rights. Their conclusions, while not statistical, point toward the fact that nothing can substitute for a good team, and the meeting more frequently can cure a number of long-standing challenges. For the skeptic who says “More meetings? I ain’t going to no more stinkin’ meetings” one merely has to say, “Let’s get you into the right meetings!”
Rob Waller talked about prioritizing different risks to collections, focusing on clearly defined goals. He explained the importance of filtering what falls under facilities managers’ ability to control. He reiterated that in many cases, the 80/20 rule applies: 20% of the risks contribute to 80% or more of the total risk, so these should be prioritized if at all possible.
Deborah Potter shared Tate’s collaborative approach to facilities planning for six sites, 72,000 works of art and a million library and archive materials. In debriefs from system failures, they discuss the impact on the collection, and approach how to prevent it from happening again, also taking a risk-based approach to collections care. Their team includes registrars, collections,, communications, and facilities staff. With a “green vision” aiming to reduce carbon emissions by 15%, they are embarking on an ambitious but doable program including energy plant and HVAC controls replacement, LED lighting, solar panels. Other sustainability initiatives include waste management, recycling, up-cycling, a flower meadow, and beekeeping! They’re not the only ones keeping bees…we found these on the roof just outside the door of the pre-session room!
Image of beehive and hexagonal wooden honeycomb sculpture on a roof
Image courtesy of P. Anderson

This first session ended with a tabletop exercise in which temperature and humidity parameters for an incoming loan challenge our fictitious small institution, stemming from poorly written loan agreement, lack of historical data, and lack of communication between the director and the staff. Of course we sorted it all out in 15 minutes, but with the understanding that these problems are ongoing and are exacerbated by the fact that we have no industry standards for libraries, museums and archives. One group noted that such agreements can be used as leverage to make needed upgrades.
The second session, Share the Planning: Collaborative approaches to emergency management, was moderated by Rebecca Fifield, Chair, AIC Collections Care Network, and Head of Collection Management, Special Collections at New York Public Library
Image of workshop participants seated around a round table smiling and talking
Image courtesy of P. Anderson

Collection Emergency Plans at Museum Victoria
Maryanne McCubbin, head of Strategic Collection Management for the Museum Victoria, presented the approach they have to managing risks in the multiple museum buildings and storage facilities where they house over 17 million state collection items. Citing recent floods that have tested their plan and preparedness, she emphasized how crucial it is for collections staff to communicate accurately and often with facilities and provide a liaison with facilities as well as emergency (first) responders (fire, police, authorities). She also commented on an often overlooked approach to managing risks, or inherent dangers, within a collection, such as hazardous substances in collections.
She stressed that a plan should be thorough yet brief. It can have appendices that provide more specific and detailed outlined activities for departments. However the plan should be developed through extensive negotiations with facilities, conservation and security. She cited a couple pitfalls for any great plan: failure to regularly induct new hires to the plan, especially in departments with high-turnover such as facilities and security; keeping contact information for key personnel up to date; reviewing incident reports to improve your plan; and practice!
The Lone Responder: Building an Emergency team with limited resources
Laura Hortz Stanton, Executive director of Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA), discussed how crucial it is for small historic house museum, societies and municipal museums with limited staff and resources to connect with their local emergency management personnel. Reaching out to your local fire or police is important so they can become familiar with the building(s) as well as the contents, and key staff members. They can even review your emergency response plans and provide recommendations. Another key point was the importance of being prepared for the recovery after a disaster. “Who you gonna call?” A small museum that does not have a conservation and/or collections staff needs to keep an up-to-date contact list for local or regional collections professionals that can respond quickly to a call for assistance after a disaster of any size. She pointed out resources available online to help develop plans, including online templates and training, opportunities to benefit from mutual aid memberships in your state, local assistance networks, as well as AIC’s National Heritage Responders (NHR, formerly AIC-CERT). The majority of these links can be found on AIC’s website.
NFPA Codes for Cultural Heritage Institutions
Nick Artim of Heritage Protection Group was not able to attend the session as scheduled. He did participate in the half day pre-conference session on Saturday titled Choosing and Implementing a Fire Suppression System for a Collecting Institution. (AIC Blog Link http://tinyurl.com/hhdtv6z) For more information regarding Codes and Standards for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) see links provided at the end of this blog post.
The session concluded with a tabletop exercise titled An 88-year old dam and a hurricane on the way! Teams were tasked with emergency planning for the fictional Decoy Museum, a small museum located on the coast of Maryland with a history of flooding. The museum is down river from an 88 year old dam and a hurricane is quickly approaching. Teams were shown a photograph of the exterior of the building and it’s proximity to the water, history of the site as it has fared in previous storms, images of the interior and a description of the collection. We were also told that our emergency plan is out of date and the only copy stored on a computer. Using the expertise at our individual tables we were asked to review our emergency preparedness and how we would respond in our respective roles. As the clock counted down we were provided with updates on storm progress, a status report on rising flood waters, and given a 24 hour evacuation notice to see how circumstances would affect our strategies.
Although initial discussions were focused on collections, most teams concluded that the safety of the public and staff came first, followed by securing collection data (hard drives/ records), securing the building, and initiating organization for return and recovery. Two key takeaways from the exercise included a discussion around FEMA’s Incident Command Structure and the concept of “dead” building. ICS is a standardized approach to the command, control, and coordination of emergency response. ICS offers flexibility to respond to small to large incidents, defining key roles to be filled rather than strictly identifying individuals. “Dead” building is a term used by facilities professionals to describe a full building shutdown and disconnection from utilities. As part of your plan it is important to know how long it will take to shut down your building as well as bring it back online.
The third session, Share the Responsibility: Collaborative approaches to selecting appropriate environmental guidelines, was moderated by Patricia Silence, Director of Preventive Conservation, Colonial Williamsburg.
Image of four speakers seated at the podium table talking and laughing
Image courtesy of P. Anderson

Select Guidelines and Standards
Selecting guidelines and standards can’t be boiled down to just a number because it depends on factors such as the building envelope, outside air temperatures, HVAC equipment, climate, etc. and how well their interaction matches capability of building and environment. The speakers discussed using guidelines and not standards as a basis for procedures and policies, and how to maintain the notion that the indoor environment is a fundamental component to preservation of collection. Other key points made by this panel included:

  • Consistent monitoring leads to meaningful conversations
  • Environmental control includes lighting, ventilation, and pest control in addition to temperature and RH
  • Customized specifications should be developed for each institution and collection, looking for “parameters in lieu of more science” and reinforcing the point that “70/50 is no longer an appropriate, practical, sustainable, or useful set-point.”

This session ended with a table-top exercise involving an old swimming pool, a famous elephant, and a collection of ivories that need special environmental controls for exhibition. There was role-playing and even name-calling, and things got a little silly, but it was a great way to end the day.
A number of useful references were shared:
ASHRAE (American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers). 2011. Chapter 23 of ASHRAE Handbook – Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning Applications.
BSI (British Standards Institute)
PAS 197:2009 Code for Practice for Cultural Collections Management
PAS 198:2012 Specification for Managing Environmental Conditions for Cultural Collections
PD 5454:2012: Guide for the Storage and Exhibition of Archival Materials
CEN (European Committee for Standardization) BS EN 15757:2010: Conservation of Cultural Property-Specifications for Temperature and Relative Humidity to Limit Climate-Induced Mechanical Damage in Organic Hygroscopic Materials
IAMFA Cultural Institutions Benchmarking Exercise
ISO (international Organization of Standardization) ISO 11799:2015: Information and documentation – Document storage requirements for archive and library materials
National Archives and Records Administration – (US)– 2002. Archival Storage Standards, NARA Directive 1571
NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)
NFPA 909 : Code for the Protection of Cultural Resource Properties – Museums, Libraries, and Places of Worship, 2013.
NFPA 914: Code for the Fire Protection of Historic Structures, 2015
National Museum Directors’ Conference. Guiding Principles for Reducing Museums’ Carbon Footprint, 2008
Proceedings of the Smithsonian Institution Summit on the Museum Preservation Environment, 2016

43rd Annual Meeting – Collection Care Session: Beyond ‘No Food or Drink Allowed in the Gallery:’ Best Practices for Food in Cultural Institutions by Rebecca Newberry, Fran Ritchie, and Bethany Palumbo

Does the thought of blue martinis, smelly hot dogs, and live penguins in your exhibition space make you gag? The Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections has sponsored a survey and development of best practices to help mitigate the risks posed by food service (and inebriated guests) in collections storage and display areas. This presentation summarized the survey responses, and illustrated them with a number of entertaining and apt case studies. The best practices document will be posted on the NHPRC website in the next few months.
The survey was initiated by Cathy Hawkes in 2011. In addition to answering questions, the survey also solicited written food policies from the respondents to reflect current practice. The top result of the survey was concern about not having a written policy; and 40% of respondents reported pest-related activity related to food in the building.
The best practices that came out of the survey have been well-proven through the experience of the survey respondents and the authors, and are generally agreed upon. The key is to develop a written policy on food management and get buy-in from all stakeholders to enforce it (e.g. administration, vendors, facilities, café/store staff, curators and collections management staff, security). The policy should address preparation, consumption, and disposal of food. It should explain the housekeeping and integrated pest management implications of food in collections areas. Staff should be well-trained in how to interact with the public to enforce the policy. And risk mitigation should be part of contracts signed with vendors; the contract can also reflect a “This event never happened” clause (i.e. leave no trace).
Some specific tips discussed include:

  • Clean up immediately after an event
  • Put out extra tables for dirty dishes (so they don’t go on top of exhibit cases)
  • Provide space for staff to eat with proper waste containers
  • Make clear signage for where to eat and not; include a simple educational message like “Food attracts pests which can damage our collections.”
  • Determine the path that food and waste will take in and out of the collections space.
  • Menu should consist of food that is tidy when eaten: no popcorn, red wine, ice cream, or round things that roll under exhibit cases like grapes
  • Ventilation and fire suppression need to be accounted for

Following these steps will help you to avoid getting ketchup on your dinosaur (yes, it really happened!).
SPNHC Food Survey Report 2014

43rd Annual Meeting – Electronic Media Session, May 16, 2015, “Archiving the Brotherhood: Proposing a Technical Genealogy for Time-Based Works” by Joey Heinen

Warning! If you are a techy, you will have to wait for the published paper for the complete technical details; read on if you can stomach a more philosophical overview.
I recently heard a thought-provoking presentation by photograph cataloger Robert Burton who quoted his mentor, Sally Buchanan, and then explained how cataloging is preservation. Joey Heinen pushed that envelope further for me with his recent Electronic Materials Group presentation on his archival work focused on The Brotherhood, a technology-based, interactive, kinetic artwork (1990-1998) by Steina and Woody Vasulka that no longer exists. Since the artwork can no longer be experienced as an installation, preserving the archival record of the piece is the closest we can get to preserving the work.
The only way to understand or study the work now is to imagine it through immersion in its archival record, and Heinen argued further that understanding the technology is as important as understanding the visitor experience when representing the history of the artwork, much as a traditional conservator might integrate a technical study of manufacturing methods into a conservation treatment plan. As part of his graduate internship, Heinen spent the better part of a year analyzing, documenting and processing a disassembled collection of components and archives that form the corpus of The Brotherhood. And so I pose a question to you: is this preservation, or is it conservation, both, or neither?
Have you ever made a robot move to the rhythm of your voice when speaking into a microphone? Made from scavenged vintage warfare machinery from Los Alamos, the Vasulkas jury-rigged hardware, composed software, and used midi protocols to connect the gadgets to inputs like microphones and video cameras that took input or signal from the visitors (both inadvertent and purposeful), resulting in a stimulus/response sequence that integrated the visitor into the artwork and its experience.
Now disassembled and on the verge of being donated to the Brakhage Center at the University of Colorado – Boulder University Library, the work was originally installed in several venues including the InterCommunications Center in Tokyo. The artists do not intend for the artwork to be reinstalled. However, as the work integrated cutting-edge technology of the time and pushed limits of technical and aesthetic experience, they would like the collection (consisting of the work’s physical components as well as their personal archival materials) to be able to be studied. While ample video documentation of visitors experiencing with the work exists alongside a paper-based archival collection, there was no handbook to guide Heinen in how to document and therefore preserve the elements of the work that are possible to preserve.
How did Heinen accomplish this? He went way beyond normal archival processing, and instead imposed order on what I overheard one audience member describe as “chaos on so many levels.” He examined not only the physical objects, but the archival documents (e.g. notes, drawings and instructions) that were part of the artists’ design process, and videos of visitors experiencing the artwork. The analysis yielded complex mappings of the various components and their relationships to each other. He delved into the software code, creating what he calls a technical genealogy, and traced the various types and connections between inputs and outputs.
What is left to do to facilitate researchers successfully accessing the collection? One could develop curriculum to guide exploration of this kind of media, perhaps in the fields of history of computer science, or media archaeology, or enrich the archival record with artist interviews. While it may seem like a unique, one-off type of preservation project, in fact, in digital experience realms, the skills and tools Joey developed to document this project could have broader applications in documenting web-based experiences as well. I’ll be honest, some of this talk was over my head, but the rest of the audience feedback was incredibly positive, and confirmed my reaction: Wow, what a massive amount of work, and thank goodness Joey Heinen did it, or it would all be lost!
Joey Heinen’s internship was funded through the IMLS as part of requirements for the Moving Image Archiving and Preservation MA program at NYU.

42nd Annual Meeting – Workshop, May 28, 2014, “Dataloggers – Establishing and Maintaining Environmental Monitoring Systems” by Rachael Perkins Arenstein and Samantha Alderson

This workshop was a smorgasbord of dataloggers, filled with details about how they function, how the recorded information is moved from one device to another to be analyzed and repurposed, and how to think about choosing the right type of datalogger to match a particular environmental goal. I came into the workshop hoping to learn about new equipment that’s on the market now, to advance my institution’s upcoming project to re-invigorate our environmental monitoring and control program, in support of both energy and preservation goals. I got what I came for!

Workshop instructor and participants examining a long table with many types of dataloggers laid out in rows
Samantha Alderson and Suzanne Hargrove discussing datalogger options

The workshop was taught by Samantha Alderson and Rachael Perkins Arenstein, both of whom have advised institutions large and small about environmental monitoring programs, and clearly know what they are talking about. They recently updated the National Park Service Conserve-O-Gram (“Comparing Temperature and Relative Humidity Dataloggers for Museum Monitoring,” September 2011, Number 3/3, http://www.nps.gov/museum/publications/conserveogram/03-03.pdf ), which is worth reviewing, but with the caveat that the technology is changing so rapidly that vendors and specifications should be researched anew when you’re planning for a major purchase.
The presenters started by reviewing basics of the hardware and connectivity, summarizing what kind of data loggers can collect, how many loggers one needs, and where to place them, and for how long. They also talked about general environmental management concepts so the less experienced in the audience wouldn’t be left behind.
They then explained a basic difference between two families of dataloggers:

  • Stand-Alone Loggers collect data which is then harvested either by direct wired connection to a computer, through an indirect intermediary device like a card reader or thumb drive, or wirelessly; this method is appropriate when you don’t need real-time data
  • Connected Loggers either wired (Ethernet) or wireless (radio, WiFi, cellular, etc.) transmit data to a receiver that then aggregates the data from one or more devices; this method is appropriate when you need real-time data, need to receive alerts, and when you need to manage a lot of devices

Other topics covered included datalogger software and data management, calibration, and a group activity in which we had to choose (and justify) a monitoring system for one or more specific scenarios. This activity was my favorite part of the workshop, and I wish we had spent more time on this. It was a practical test of how to figure out why and what you need to monitor, and how to maximize your resources to achieve that goal.
Helpful handouts included charts of various datalogger models/systems with comparison of many variables including costs. Options to consider include: connectivity, size and aesthetics of the logger, battery type and life, sensor quality, data capacity, cost, accessibility of the device once installed, built-in display of current readings, display and/or communicate alarms, sampling rate, calibration method, probe option, and software platform compatability.
Here are some take-aways that for me will inform my upcoming work:

  • The landscape of available hardware is rapidly changing with developments in communications technologies; Bluetooth is the hot technology according to several vendors, so they are investing their development efforts into Bluetooth connectivity for their upcoming upgrades and new releases
  • Sensor quality matters, but there are also differences (reflected in the wide range of prices) in everything else around the sensor…most notably the architecture of the device, the circuitry and algorithms used to translate the sensor data into numbers. You get what you pay for, but that should be matched to what you need.
  • Sensors are very sensitive to organic vapors! They can be destroyed by a big whiff of solvents, and even thrown off by off-gassing from the plastic housing in which they are mounted.
  • Loggers need to be checked for accuracy (you can do this yourself with saturated salt solutions according to instructions in another helpful handout), and if they have drifted, they need to be recalibrated (some you can do yourself, others have to be sent to the manufacturer); battery replacement is also variable (some are DIY, others not).
  • Most connected loggers require IT support for installation in an institution, so include your IT staff during the planning phase; be sure to ask them about WiFi encryption requirements
  • Wireless technologies may be affected by building/exhibit case material and construction, as well as nearby noise-emitting sources
  • Software varies a lot, but some of the systems can import data from other manufacturers’ devices; again, you get what you pay for, but the options I favor include the ability to import climatic data, graphical visualization of the data in a format that’s understandable by a range of audiences, and good tech support.
  • Get a demo set from the vendor prior to purchasing the whole system to make sure it works for your building

At many points throughout the Collections-Care focused Annual Meeting, I noticed that careful environmental monitoring and interpretation of the data becomes a fundamental part of energy savings and decision-making, grant-funding and construction/renovation of storage spaces. I almost wish the workshop had happened right after the meeting instead of before, because I would have had many more big-picture questions to ask of the presenters. Mostly, I want to hear a more substantive discussion about why we monitor, and how to translate the data into words that advance preservation priorities. Environmental monitoring is a time- and resource-intensive process, so we should be thoughtful and strategic about it.

41st Annual Meeting – Workshop – Integrated Pest Management for Collections

This was a full-day workshop taught by three excellent and complementary instructors, Pat Kelley (Vice-President, Insects Limited), Emily Kaplan (Conservator, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian), and Rachael Perkins Arenstein (A.M. Art Conservation, LLC).  The day was broken into four sessions:

  • Introduction to IPM principles (including physical prevention, policies and procedures)
  • Behind-the-scenes (and inside the nooks and crannies) tour and real-life demonstration of pest monitoring and trapping in the Eiteljorg Museum of Native American and Western Art

IMG_7781    IPM Eiteljorg walkthrough (7)

  • Presentation/hands-on quiz on pest identification

2013-05-29 14 39 47

  • Presentation/practice session on remedial infestation treatments

While the emphasis was on museum objects (specifically natural history collections), there were many good lessons learned that translate to my field of interest, libraries and archives, as well as to other cultural heritage repositories.  I highly recommend this workshop to anyone who has responsibilities in this area (I thought about writing “interest” but when it comes to bugs, that’s putting it a little strongly for many of us).  I’d like to see this become an on-going AIC workshop.  My only suggestion for improvement would be to expand the pest ID presentation, which sped by too quickly for my novice’s eyes.
Key takeaways:

  • There is a comprehensive and dynamic resource that pulls together almost all the IPM we would ever need: www.MuseumPests.net, a product of the Integrated Pest Management Working Group, which is an interdisciplinary and independent professional group that is informally linked with AIC and also the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC). An associated listserv, Pest List, gives amateurs a place to ask questions of the professional community, confirm ID of pests, etc.
  • A key guiding principle of IPM is to reduce the use of chemical pesticides for many compelling reasons, including personal health and safety, environmental impact, cost, effective prevention of (rather than reaction to) pest-related damage, and early warning/response in the event of an infestation.
  • IPM has to be a group effort that requires buy-in from a diverse group of stakeholders, including the highest levels of institution administration, the facilities managers, housekeeping staff, groundskeepers, security managers and patrol staff, pest management experts either within or contracted from outside the organization, curatorial/collection manager/registrarial and support staff, caterers and shop managers, exhibit designers, and human resources staff, as well as conservation/preservation staff.
  • Including IPM as a part of an overall risk management strategy may be a way to draw resources to its successful implementation.
  • Well-written, approved, distributed, promoted, and enforced policies and procedures are vital to a successful IPM program.
  • Species identification is crucial in order to  prevent/eradicate; it informs the feeding patterns, reproductive cycles, behavior, and environmental conditions that can be targeted/controlled to ensure successful trapping
  • Traps come in various shapes, sizes, and odors (pheromones are species specific, so you have to identify what you have before you purchase the pheromone trap).  A “blunder trap” has no pheromone or bait but is just sticky and is placed carefully in the likely path of a pest.  A pheromone lure with sticky trap mimics the scent exuded by a specific species of female to attract males.  Poisoned bait traps are also used, but you can’t control where the pest goes off to die.
  • IPM is a great field for sleuths and puzzlers; but sometimes the answer (i.e. the cause of the infestation) is elusive, so there are some cold cases.
  • Common museum pests are mostly moths and beetles, many of which look pretty similar to me so I’d need professional confirmation of my amateur ID; I’m going to seek out and cultivate a relationship with a local entomologist
  • Remedial treatments include isolation, temperature (heat and freezing), and anoxia (nitrogen, argon, CO2).  CO2 requires a pesticide license.  Pesticides and fumigation are the last resorts.  Heat treatments can be very cheap (black plastic bag in the sun, car with the windows closed on a hot summer day).  Do not use anoxia if you have Prussian blue pigments.
  • Freeze/thaw/refreeze is *not* necessary; just freezing for the right length of time will do the job
  • My own personal observation: squeamishness may diminish when you get up close and personal on a regular basis.

And here is a list of some of the products and equipment that they demonstrated (this is not an endorsement, just information sharing)

  • Door sweeps: sealeze.com
  • Copper gauze for stuffing holes: Stuf-fit
  • Landscape fabric: Geo Xcluder
  • Desiccating treatment for high-risk displays (i.e. food art): diatomaceous earth
  • Oxygen scavenger: Ageless
  • Films for air-tight sealing: Marvelseal (opaque) and Escal (transparent) or Aclar (also transparent) can be heat-sealed together
  • Cube of Marvelseal: Zer02 cube system
  • Current fumigants: sulfuryl fluoride and phosphene (need a license)
  • Other effective pesticide: boric acid, which is available loaded into a silverfish pack (corrugated board)
  • Microscope: The Professor, stereoscope, battery powered, by Ken-A-Vision, lowest price at B&H Photovideo (~$80)
  •   We didn’t walk away with samples of sticky traps, but I’d add those to this list if I had the brand names etc.

Selected recommended publications:
Florian, Mary-Lou. Heritage eaters: Insects and fungi in heritage collections. London: James & James (Science Publishers) Ltd., 1997.
Kingsley, Helen; David Pinniger, Amber Xavier-Rowe, Peter Winsor. Integrated Pest Management for Collections: Proceedings of 2001: A Pest Odyssey. London: English Heritage, 2001.
Pinniger, David. Pest Management: a practical guide. Cambridge: Collections Trust, [2009].
Pinniger, David. Pest Management in Museums, Archives, and Historic Houses. London Archetype Press, 2001 (2004 reprint).
Winsor, Peter; David Pinniger, Louise Bacon, Bob Child, Kerren Harris, Dee Lauder, Julie Phippard and Amber Xavier-Rowe. Integrated Pest Management for Collections Proceedings of 2011: A Pest Odyssey, 10 Years Later.  London: English Heritage, 2011.

AIC’s 40th Annual Meeting – Tamarind Institute Tour

Posted on behalf of Debora Mayer.

The tour of the Tamarind Lithography Workshop was a highlight of the conference. Tamarind was founded in Los Angeles in 1960 as a means to invigorate the art of lithography by training master printers and forging collaborations with artists. Tamarind moved to Albuquerque in 1970, became affiliated with the University of New Mexico and continues to train printers in a MFA program.

As a student in lithography in the 1970’s I was enamored with and extensively referenced the textbook The Tamarind Book of Lithography Art and Techniques by Garo Antreasian and Clinton Adams. My copy of the book is now deteriorating and brittle from exposure to studio chemicals. Many of my favorite artists such as Jim Dine and Ed Ruscha have printed at Tamarind and their prints were on the wall and their presence was felt on the day of the tour.

The tour began with the group watching a 1973 documentary film “Four Stones for Kanemitsu” detailing the collaboration between artist Matsumi Kanemitsu and Master Printer Serge Lozingot as they create and print a four-color lithograph. Best of all, was the delight of seeing in the film– co-star, conservator and colleague Betty Fiske. Betty was curator at Tamarind at the time of the filming and she spoke to the process of creating the documentation sheet that records the materials and techniques used to create each edition. By the way these documentation sheets are in the process of being scanned and will soon be available as PDFs for collectors.

The tour continued to the print studio filled with presses, shelves of rollers, inks, and litho stones. A print of an owl was being pulled by MFA students in the apprentice program. The smell of ink was wonderful.

Walking across the street to the U of NM Art Museum I participated in the (AIC) tour of the museum. To complete the story, the museum is the repository for the print archive of the Tamarind workshop- housed in their newly renovated print study and storage area.

Debora Mayer

AIC’s 40th Annual Meeting — Workshop — Assessing and Managing Risks to Your Collections

Led by Robert Waller, PhD

Robert Waller currently wears several hats as the President and Senior Risk Analyst of Protect Heritage Corporation based in Ottawa, and his impressive career also includes working as a conservation administrator for the Canadian Museum of Nature as well as an author of numerous conservation publications.  He taught this one-day workshop on risk assessment methodology with a sense of humor as well as a sense of purpose, and left me wanting to learn more.  He kept us actively engaged and learning from one another.  And his thorough handout gave us lots more information to clarify the concepts that we practiced working with during the day.

We started off introducing each other and doing a little group bonding at each table, which led to friendly competition for tantalizing prizes equitably awarded by our instructor.  Our whole group was marvelously multi-lingual, multi-cultural, and multi-specialty, opening our minds to the challenges of different locations and types of collections.  The bonding time paid off by the end of the day, when we had to work together to produce a real-life risk analysis of exhibits in the convention center, complete with insect infestation and earthquake risks.

One key takeaway for me after one of the mathematical exercises was that we don’t have to get too specific to estimate loss in value.  The point is to identify the kind of value that the object is most prized for in the collection at this point in time, not every possible use/value that it could ever have.  The spreadsheet would get too long, and we’d get bogged down with fine differences in opinion.  Just using a few significant and vaguely measurable values allows us to screen and rank the risks so we can then prioritize the top ten, figure out how much mitigation would cost, and then take concrete, practical steps to get the most bang for the buck.

But first, we had to learn the method, which is both theoretical and practical.  Brace yourselves for some math, or better yet, get some caffeine to help you through the next few paragraphs.

The method starts with identifying risks both by “agent of deterioration” (one of ten general causes of risk) and “type of risk” (a combination of frequency and severity).  How often a risk might happen is the first significant filter for decision-making, so dividing risks into rare, sporadic, and continual is the place to start.  These are then further modified by their severity, so a rare and catastrophic risk becomes type 1, sporadic and severe is type 2, and continual and mild is type 3.  According to Bob, we can’t waste time worrying about either a continual/catastrophic risk (we’re all goners), or a mild/rare risk (just a drop in the bucket).

To assess a collection’s risks, we define the most likely agents of deterioration and types of risks, and then envision specific scenarios that illustrate the combination of the two.  For example, the agent of deterioration might be pests, the type of risk might be type 2 (sporadic and severe), and the specific risk might be silverfish that enter the collection with a donation, and feast on paper-based library collections resulting in loss of information value.  Approximately 50 such specific risks would be defined for a typical, comprehensive collection assessment, and a spreadsheet table created with a line for each risk.

The magnitude of each specific risk is then estimated by determining four ratios (each is given a number between 0 and 1) and multiplying them all together:

  • fraction of the collection that is susceptible to each risk (.75 represents ¾ of the collection would be affected)
  • loss in value that would occur if the risk occurred (and value is not just monetary…there are many notions of value, and this number is approximate based on minor/major/total loss, with 1 being total loss, .5 being half of the value lost, and .1 being 10% value lost)
  • probability that the loss would actually occur within 100 years (for type 1 risks only; all others get a 1 because they will definitely happen within 100 years)
  • extent (a concept that is hard for this novice to define, but is combination of the first two values modified by their likelihood of occurring within 100 years given current mitigation efforts, and is applied to type 2 and type 3 risks only).

We assume that each of those values is 1 unless there’s a reason to define it otherwise.  And once we’ve calculated the magnitude for each specific risk, we have bottom-line numbers that can help prioritize the specific risks.  By multiplying several variables that are <1, decimal places accumulate in the final product, so it becomes easier to see which are the most significant risks.  The comparisons become logarithmic.  Risks that are closer to 1 are more likely to cause significant loss, whereas risks that are .001 and lower are not such big threats.  At the end of it all, if we have two risks with similar values, we use time as a tie-breaker, determining which risk is going to happen sooner and addressing that one first.

During the last exercise, each table was assigned a display window in a series of exhibits about the sister cities of Albuquerque.  Our table was assigned Sasebo, Japan, which displayed ceramics on a glass shelf aamong other things.  Narrowing down to what we arbitrarily judged to be the most significant risk, we assessed the risk of earthquake damage to the ceramics.  Roughly 14 out of 40 objects were ceramics on the glass shelf (fraction susceptible is 14/40 or .35). We judged the loss in value to be .8, since the ceramics would very likely break but could be repaired to regain some of their display value.  Probability for earthquakes in the region is estimated at 1 in 400 years, which gave us a ratio of .25 in 100 years.  Multiplying .35 x .8 x .25 gave us a bottom line magnitude of risk of .07, which is smaller than we expected.  Looking back on it, we might have gotten a higher magnitude of risk if we’d chosen to assess the impact of a dead moth lying on the bottom of the case on the silk kimono  hanging above it.

By the end of the day, I came to appreciate what my actuary friend does all day long, and vowed to ask him more about it.  Bob did a great job at helping us to put practical numbers onto concepts that previously seemed unmeasurable, and at providing a bottom-line mathematical method that can help us clarify the priorities for mitigating risks to our collections.

Saving Energy in HVAC for Conservation Environments

Pre-conference workshop led by William P. Lull

31 May 2011

Notes by participant Priscilla Anderson 

In a solid day of information-packed lectures, Bill Lull explained the basic elements of the systems that control air temperature, humidity, and quality in typical collections storage buildings, and then talked about many ways that we can decrease energy use by those systems.   He framed the day by asking the following questions:  What is the system?  How does it work?  What can we do to make it work more efficiently?

Key takeaways

Systems are usually overbuilt so they have the capacity to accommodate the peak demand (the hottest, coldest, driest, and most humid days of the year).  However, they use a lot of energy at the peak.  But they are much more efficient when running at partial power.  So if you have variable speed fans, you can turn them down on days that don’t have extreme heat or cold coming in from the outside.   They will use less energy than a smaller sized fan running at top speed.  Bill gave the analogy of a Prius going at top speed versus a BMW just keeping up with the Prius…the BMW has much better gas mileage at the Prius’ top speed!  Optimize your overbuilt systems, tweaking them to accommodate different weather patterns

Bill made a plug for the work that IPI has done (providing PEMs and software that’s easy to use so we have data to use when talking with Operations), and for promoting the idea that we can improve energy efficiency by using existing equipment, maybe doing some component upgrades, tweaking setpoints, make the existing  system work better.

Optimizing existing systems to improve energy efficiency

Cooling systems:  Some cars have a gauge in the car that tell you the real-time miles per gallon so you can see the impact of how you drive.  Most HVAC systems don’t have energy meters installed on individual equipment, so it’s hard to know how to optimize the system.  Siemens will install one of these meters for approx. $16,000 for two chillers.  Having feedback about the energy use at the device helps you make intelligent choices about how you operate that device. 

Other things you can do with your chiller:

If you don’t have a dehumidifier, but you have high humidity, then use your chiller to cool the air to the dew point in order to condense liquid water out of the air.  52 degrees F is cool enough to get air that will then be 50% RH at 70 degrees F.  So you can use your chiller as a dehumidifier.  Then you have to heat the air back up to the desired temperature again, so that takes some energy.  But since cooling systems have heat as a byproduct, you could conceivably recover that “low-grade heat” and reuse it.

Fans: Install variable frequency drives on fans so you can operate them at reduced capacity.  Fans operated at 50% speed only use 15% of the energy.  There is a double bonus for slowing down your fans that is predicted by a mathematical equation I won’t reproduce here.  Basically, when you have less air flow, that gets multiplied by a pressure number that is non-linearly lower…you get the pressure drops further along in the system (filters, etc) that then results in much less energy use.

Pumps:  If you reduce the gallons per minute, you can get a similar double effect for energy savings as the fan system.

Air quality: we don’t need as much fresh air (oxygen) as we think.  In fact, we can re-breathe our own air as long as we get rid of the carbon dioxide that we offgas.  Dilution with outside air is the least efficient  method of getting rid of CO2.  So if you can filter out CO2, then you can have a lot more re-use of air rather than bringing in outside air that then needs to be conditioned.   

Lighting is a significant source of heat in a building, so in the summer you have extra load that you have to cool building because of lighting.  You’re using energy to turn the light on, and then more energy to cool off the air that was heated up by the light.  So turn off the lights in the cooling season!

Things not to do:

Night-time shut downs you are shutting it down at the time when it would be operating more efficiently anyway (not as much cooling needed at night), and then you need to do more to catch up during the peak load time (hot day). 

Cyclic control: on/off/on/off uses 50% of the energy.  Variable frequency drive only uses 35% of the energy to meet the same load.

Filters: Do not get rid of filters!  But you can use extended surface area filters.  Slow down the fan instead to save energy. 

New construction/building design considerations:

You don’t want operable windows in an all-air system…too much imbalance on the system, and the air that comes in doesn’t get mixed well in the spaces.  Opaque, insulated walls have the smallest loads (i.e. they leak less than fixed windows, and much less than openable windows and doors).  Daylighting (windows, skylights) does not save energy…what you save in lighting, you pay more for in load (cooling in the summer). 

Don’t use pressure sensors/pressurized systems…there are better ways to manage outside air.  In practice, they just don’t work. 

It’s important to advocate for separate air handler for storage and office spaces, since the air quality/filtration (as well as temperature/humidity) needs are so different.

Dehumidification: Pre-treat outside air with its own cooling coil to get some moisture out, so you don’ t need a reheat.


Vocabulary check: “geothermal” means dig a hole and steam comes out (volcanic activity nearby…Iceland, Hawaii).  For the kind of digging we do in North America, it’s called Ground Source Heat Pump, where you send air/water down a deep hole to condition it to a constant temperature (approx. 50 degrees F).

Photovoltaic (solar power) is very cost-effective.  Many telephone poles have a photovoltaic array panels.  They don’t need much maintenance (unlike generators); that’s why solar power is a sustainable source of energy.  Solar panels can be for either hot water or electricity. 

Hydrogen powered cars are the future…split water into O2 and hydrogen, then release the O2 and store the hydrogen for power. 

Hydro power is also a good sustainable source, because can ramp it down and up very quickly…anything with steam doesn’t have that flexibility.  You can pump water up into a tower, and generate electricity by letting it run down whenever you want it.

Utility companies charge large institutions “Demand Costs” that are calculated by the peak amount used in a 15 or 30 minute period, then you’re billed for that for the rest of the year.   So if you can reduce that peak amount by even just a little bit, then your costs will be lower over the whole year regardless of how much energy you use at other times.