42nd Annual Meeting — Collection Care + HVAC Session, May 31, 2014, “Sustaining Collections: Putting Theory into Practice” with James Reilly, Lois Price, John Castle, Tom Sherwood, Don K. Rowe

I was tweeting up a storm during this session (#AICSF).  Why the fervor? There is nothing like hearing the conversion of smart professionals towards the gospel of collaboration, preservation management and the preservation environment.  A two-year intensive review of the air handling systems at the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library (Delaware) generated insights into the management of the preservation environment that provided refreshing new data on how to approach mechanical renovation projects.  During the panel, each stakeholder told a part of a story that provided many “Ah Ha” moments. Here’s a sample of the tweets:
On the issue of getting all the stakeholders in the room:
I keep saying this: collaboration between facilities and conservation colleagues is a key for establishing set points.
Collections management and facilities management must be in handshake [pic of hands shaking].
On the implementation of nightly shut downs and seasonable shifts to manage the preservation environment and reduce the use of water and energy:
It’s not so simple to do shut downs and seasonably adjust set points.
Achilles heel of doing shut downs may be antiquated systems including [antiquated] monitoring.  Really, you cannot just shut off the furnace!
On the struggle to adequately understand the way that air handling systems may have evolved over time due to changes in personnel, changes in technology, and changes in the built environment:
Sounds like facilities engineers could take a page out of @conservators documentation strategies and requirements.  #asbuiltsnotdrawn
[A fireplace that had served as an air return decades ago was blocked during renovations wreaking havoc on the HVAC control]: Secret air return: non-working fireplace… blocked.
[Retired engineer returns to review the system and finds out that all of the built-in compensation for Gerry-rigged HVAC has been resolved]: “We always run two boilers!” “Let me tell you what: now we’re only running one.”
On the monitoring tools that are essential for understanding how your systems are running:
eClimate Notebook from IPI is such a great tool. Proud to plug it!
Winterthur reports a decrease in its energy costs, which include the reduction in the use of fresh water, and intends to repurpose energy costs into programming.  Now that’s sustainable!

42nd Annual Meeting, Collection Care Session, May 29, 2014, “The Future of Risk Assessment: Developing Tools for Collections Care Professionals” by Beth Nunan

Beth Nunan of the American Museum of Natural History described an almost 10-year approach to gather data across the many departments of the museum, using the cultural property risk assessment model (modified for AMNH). No one wants their risk assessment survey to sit on a shelf, and one thing is for certain: if the data cannot be compared across collections, the data will stay unused and uninterpreted. Even if the data is used, it can be called into question if the tools that captured and analyzed the information are perceived as biased.
Here are some of the takeaways from the AMNH approach:
1) The more complex the collection program at a museum, the more difficult it is to comprehensively apply and manage a risk assessment project. At the American Museum of Natural History there are millions of specimens ranging from vertebrates to botanical specimens and including libraries and archives.
2) There is a trend that AMNH is following about being able to compare risk assessment data with other like museums. Sharing risk assessment data and finding benchmarks across the museum field is becoming important; so risk assessment surveys should consider what will be the common data points shared with other museums, and what the definitions of those data points are.
3) Once tools are developed they should be shared with other professionals to amplify the use of the tools at other institutions. Groups like Collection Care Network and others are seeking to standardize templates and tools in order to facilitate comparison.
4) Partners are crucial to the success of risk assessments. Partners are frequently allied professionals, such as curators, librarians and archivists.
It’s clear that AMNH has many challenges in developing the tools it has used for risk assessment, but I expect we will hear much more from the conservators there as they promote their tools and lead other natural history museums towards this smart way of evaluating risks.