45th Annual Meeting, Electronic Media, June 1, “Establishing a Workflow for the Preservation of Software-Based Artworks.”

Warning: I am a paper conservator who knows her way around a computer, but that doesn’t mean I totally get all of this. We’re starting to consider doing work like this at my home institution, so I thought I’d better see what it was all about. Luckily, there are a lot of pictures of slides, and it was presented in such a way that I just saw it as another case of documentation of an artifact – it just happens to have many moving parts (literally).  Oh. And I apologize in advance for the photobombing microphone stand in the slides.

The basic summary is that the Tate collaborated with Klaus Rechert from Freiburg University to develop a workflow, and created a report describing a framework for the use of emulation for preservation of artworks. This was made possible by PERICLES, a European funded project which focuses on evaluating and representing the risks for long-term digital conservation of digital resources. As part of that collaboration we then tested that approach in a workshop with the participation of Dragan Espenschied of Rhizome on works from the Tate’s collection. One of those artworks was  “Subtitled Public” by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (T12565).

The emulation challenge with “Subtitled Public” (2005) was that it involved electronic and live components in addition to the operation of cameras. Good news is this is one artwork that was deeply documented, so it was a good test case for developing a workflow. Below is the extent of the documentation (BTW the computers were Mac Minis):

Selecting Preservation Strategies: These are the Essential Steps, which are complimentary:

Note on artwork’s significant properties: one of the elements of the artwork is projecting words on people. The entire artwork would need to be reinstalled in order to compare completely and properly.

Note on resources, sustainability, and application: how many artworks can you support? You need to think about the collection as a whole; resources, sustainability, and application for the long term.

Defining boundaries will help you identify commonalities among artworks, which can help with prioritization and creating systems that will work for multiple artworks.

In the emulation environment, you have the artwork itself as a digital artifact. This does not change over time and can one of any huge number of different objects. The computer system are a rather small number of different hardware environments, but they require constant replacement.

In between is the most interesting work to approach the problem: keeping the operating system monitored and functional. If the OS is interfering with artwork directly, monitor and maintain technical interfaces (OS and CS – hardware environment).

So why do it this way? Scalability!

Making emulation approachable is the ultimate goal.

  1. Image disk and normalize it. Make it work in an emulator. Unify hardware configuration. Disk controller issues may appear if moved to different emulator.
  2. Generalize disk image otherwise you’ll get the blue screen of death. Goals: All images share the same technological risks.
  3. Yay! It works! Changed a layer on top to original image to get it to work, but the original image was untouched.

EaaS: automate image ingest of disk image. Select matching machine template. Automatic check of hardware configuration of operating system.


The proposed workflow is reversible and recyclable. One can try different ways and every revision can be forked.

The operating and computer systems are not specific to the work itself. Emulation can be considered since the digital artifacts and the hardware are not tied to the artwork itself.

Unfortunately, the entire installation couldn’t be completed,  so further testing needed for this artwork. But now they understand the process, and disk images are captured and archived.



45th Annual Meeting, Pre-Meeting Session, May 29, “CAP, MAP, and StEPS: Collections Care Opportunities for Small Museums.”

To kick off this pre-meeting session, Chris Reich, Chief Administrator, Office of Museum Services, Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), provided an overview of IMLS, which was founded in 1996, previously called IMS (Institute of Museum Services), which was founded in 1976.

The IMLS is an independent agency, and the Director is appointed by the president. The Board is a congressional appointed board of museum and library professionals. IMLS is funded through annual congressional appropriations; primary source of federal support for the nationals 123K; libraries and 35K museums ; most well-known for grants; also conducts research and produces publications.

Programs that IMLS sponsors: Museums for America (Museums Empowered), Native American/ Native Hawaiian Museum Services, Museum Grants for African-American History and Culture, National Leadership Grants for Museums – fund projects that benefit multiple museums, help to advance the profession, and create models for other museums to use.

IMLS also sponsors the Museum Assessment Program (MAP), Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations (StEPS), and the Collections Assessment Program (CAP), which are funded through cooperative agreements. Grant funds go directly to the administration that administers the grants (FAIC for CAP, AAM – American Alliance of Museums – for MAP, and AASLH – American Association for State and Local History – for StEPS).

I snapped a picture of this slide that demonstrates the purpose of each program:

Why are assessments important for cultural institutions?

  • Aimed at small and medium sized museums – entry point to become poised to apply for state and federal grants
  • Improve professional practices
  • Awareness of national standards
  • Re-energize boards and staff
  • Working together
  • Establish shared goals
  • Foundation for planning
  • Building community credibility and support
  • Non-judgmental support – these assessments are collegial visits – helping that institution examine its operations and practices to help them become more professional

First, Danyelle Rickard, Museum Assessment Program Officer, American Alliance of Museums, spoke about the MAP program. It’s been around for 36 years, and operates as a self-assessment program, coupled with a site visit and peer review, and then a final report. The process has three different types of assessments available: organizational, collections stewardship, or community engagement. To be eligible for a MAP, you need to have/be the following:

  • One professional staff for FTE
  • Nonprofit – private or public
  • Located in a US state or territory
  • Open at least 90 days/ year – special events and outreach count
  • Cares for/ owns/ uses tangible objects

Costs for the MAP depend on the operating budget of the museum:

For the fee, you get a Self-Study Workbook, focused on the assessment type requested, and a Peer Review Report. The Report provides an honest snapshot at the time of the visit, manageable recommendations and resources, and also highlights good (and not-so-good) processes.

Who are the AAM Peer Reviewers?

  • Volunteers (expenses and honorarium provided)
  • Familiar with MAP and Accreditation
  • Review materials
  • Conduct site visits
  • Write reports
  • 5 years experience in decision-making roles
  • Knowledgeable about standards, ethics, practices, operations
  • Engaged with the museum community
  • Good communicators
  • Critical thinkers
  • Committed to the highest ethical standards and level of professionalism

Benefits to being a peer reviewer: learning experience, networking opportunities, giving back to the profession, and a source of professional development.

Time and Cost: 40-60 hours per assignment; AAM reimburses expenses; $400 honorarium; keep online profile and availability up-to-date; about 1500 volunteers currently

Types of Museums: children’s museums, university museums, specialized museums, zoo and aquariums, science centers, nature centers, botanical gardens, art, and history – MAP is specifically looking for people with expertise in these types of museums as volunteers.

Then, Tiffani Emig, CAP Program Coordinator, talked about the CAP Program, which is a program that provides small to mid-sized museums the opportunity to have a conservator and an architectural conservator come to their museum to perform an assessment of their buildings and operations as well as their collections care methods. The museum receives a report that is a high-level, well-rounded view of collections care for the museum.

How can CAP help museums?

  • Provides a path forward; “here are the things that are the most important things to do to help you best care for your collections.”
  • Shows evidence and support of need for grant funding
  • Outside perspective – improved board and administration support

Conservators and architectural conservators can apply to work on these assessments; there is a rolling application process. Eligibility requirements for assessors:

  • Professional training in conservation, zoology, botany or horticulture, architectural conservation, architecture, landscape, architecture, engineering, or related field
  • At least five years of professional experience in preservation, conservation, or collections care in one of the above fields
  • Experience conducting general conservation assessments
    • Potential workshop being developed for eligible people who do not have experience in conducting assessments

There is an annual call for institutions to apply for the funding for the assessment. Museum eligibility:

  • Small or mid-size – reviewable in 2 days
  • Organized as nonprofits or unit of state, local, or tribal government
  • Located in the United States or territory
  • Organized on a permanent basis for educational or aesthetic purposes
  • Own tangible objects and make them available to the public
  • At least 1 FTE paid or unpaid

Assessor fees are based on the annual operating budget of the museum. If an assessor’s fee is higher, the museum must make up the cost difference. They also pay for transportation, lodging, and meals.

CAP Program Cycle 2018

  • Museum Applications 11/15/17
  • Assessor Applications: Rolling
  • Museum Applications Close: 2/1/18
  • Availability for a new more museums for this fiscal year (before the end of 2017)

Laura Hortz Stanton, Executive Director, Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts, presented on StEPS, which has been funded by IMLS since 2005 to assist in creating incremental standards for the History Museum field.

Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations (StEPS)  is open to any museum. It’s a great entry-level program for institutions that don’t feel ready for another assessment program, or can’t use an outside assessor. It is a self-study tool that is used by 850 organizations nationwide (current enrollment numbers).

The self study tool is a notebook, made up of check boxes. If one can’t check off a box, that means it is an opportunity for improvement for the institution. Here’s a sample picture of a page in the notebook:

As shown in the image above, each section has three levels – not a “one size fits all” and not intended to meet best practices if you can’t do it on your first shot. it creates a way to have meaningful progress without having to spend lots of money. The institution spends more time than money on this process. The notebook also includes:

  • Board orientation manual
  • Job descriptions for board officers and paid/ unpaid staff
  • Ethics code
  • Facilities Rental Policy
  • Emergency Plan
  • Maintenance Plan
  • Collections Policy

How to enroll:

  • One-time fee of $175 for AASLH members; $290 for non-AASLH members
    • No application to fill out and no deadline to complete the program

Benefits of StEPS:

  • Focus direction
  • Increase credibility
  • Justify funding requests and decisions
  • Plan for the future
  • Learn about standards
  • Track progress
  • Articulate accomplishments – StEPS benchmarks
  • Receive recognition (certificates when you reach certain goals)
  • Prepare for other assessment programs

After the presentations, the group broke up into groups for people to ask one-on-one questions to the presenters about their program.

CCI and ICCROM Publish the ABC Method for Risk Management!

From an email announcement sent by CCI:

CCI and ICCROM are pleased to announce the publication of The ABC Method: a risk management approach to the preservation of cultural heritage. This is a comprehensive manual aimed at those working in cultural heritage institutions. The ABC method has been refined over many years through an international course presented by CCI and ICCROM, as well as by its application in numerous case studies by CCI, ICCROM and colleagues around the world.

Adopting a risk management approach will help you determine the priorities for preventive conservation and decide between options to address them. Risks occur in many forms, from the rare and catastrophic to the cumulative and slow, from the familiar to the unfamiliar, from those easily observed to those often overlooked. Risk management integrates the knowledge of those who care directly for the heritage asset with what can be applied through science and technology. An abridged publication, A Guide to Risk Management of Cultural Heritage, is also available for those who want to become familiar with the approach and tools of the ABC method.

In March 2016, the Risk Management and Risk-based Decision Making for Museum, Gallery, Archive and Historic House Collections workshop was held at CCI. Webcast recordings from this advanced professional development workshop explain how to use risk management techniques to make decisions regarding the care of collections on display and in storage.

For questions and further assistance:

PCH.iccservices-cciservices.PCH@canada.ca or collections@iccrom.org

44th Annual Meeting – Research and Technical Studies, May 17, "Characterizing the Age of Ancient Egyptian Manuscripts through micro-Raman Spectroscopy" by Sarah Goler

This is another session that I tweeted (@taradkennedy), so not a long post, but enough to give you the gist at least.
Ms. Goler was using micro-Raman spectroscopy for dating of Egyptian manuscript material.This is super cool because normally we’d have to take a sample of a manuscript and do carbon dating in order to determine a date of an unknown. With this method, we don’t!
So, how does it work? Essentially measurements are taken of the carbon black ink on a particular manuscript using micro-Raman spectroscopy. Using the difference in the dominant peak heights in the spectrograph with ink samples where the date is known, ratios are plotted and graphed to show dates:

Height ratio between peaks D & G and document date ranges
Height ratio between peaks D & G and document date ranges

So, the more plots you have, the more dates you have; and the more dates you have, the easier it is to determine the date range of an unknown manuscript.
To test that this would work, Ms. Goler analyzed a manuscript where she didn’t know the date range, but the librarian/ curator did. Using this method, she was able to date the manuscript within a 70 year range!
Got the date right +/- 70 years. That's pretty damn good and safer for the object than carbon dating.
Got the date right +/- 70 years. That’s pretty damn good and safer for the object than carbon dating.

It was nondestructive in that the energy level of the laser used didn’t “burn up” the ink sample. One of the issues that a conservator from the University of Michigan else mentioned during the Q&A portion was that in order to get the peak response that Ms. Goler got, she would destroy the sample. Since my experience with Raman spectroscopy is zero, I can’t really speculate why Ms. Goler was successful and this other woman from U of M was not.
I did think this is a really promising technique, provided I understood the content correctly. If people have edits or corrections, be sure to comment below!

44th Annual Meeting – Sustainability, May 16, "Sustainable Energy Reductions without Relaxed Environmental Criteria for a Hypothetical Museum in Montreal" by William Lull

Annoyingly, my computer thought it would be a great time to crap out, but luckily I come equipped with multiple electronic devices. So, as to not let my computer get the best of me, I snapped pictures of a number of his slides, so I would catch the gist of his talk. It also helps that Bill came to Yale to give a much more extensive version of this talk to collections and facilities staff.
Good news? The talk in its entirety is available as a paper on Bill’s web site: http://publications.garrisonlull.com
Bill set up a hypothetical building scenario (10,000 sf) using Montreal as its home. Montreal uses hydro power (so cool and GREEN) for its utilities so carbon footprint isn’t a concern here, so he doesn’t talk about emission reduction in this scenario.
Institutions want to save money, so naturally, their first thought is to cut back on HVAC settings. Same with energy savings: if we change our parameters, we’ll save money AND energy! But at what risk to our collections?
The scenarios that were hypothesized were the following:

  • Change lighting energy use – reduce by 1 w/sf
  • Change the T/RH to the relaxed AAMD (Association of Art Museum Directors) standards
  • Change the energy loads and other proposed criteria without changing the environment set points

The scenarios were tried in a collections storage space and a gallery space in the proposed building.
Now, granted, the AAMD “standards” were proposed so that we’d be more lenient in our loaning practices, and not about energy savings or anything like that. Plus, I am not sure what “science” was used to determine these guidelines, since as far as I know, no conservators or conservation scientists were part of the conversation. But that’s a bone I can pick on a different blog post. 🙂 Anyway, Bill was just using it as an example of relaxed conditions.
One important element to examine are the alternative loads and how they might affect these numbers. Reducing these loads on a system will save energy and money:

  • Internal Loads
    • e.g. humans, lights, computers
    • turn off lights, change lamps, turn off computers not in use
  • Envelope Loads
    • e.g. radiant heat from the sun, glass, insulation, vapor barrier (or lack thereof)
    • seal up cracks, add insulation, vapor barrier
  • Outside Air Loads
    • how much outside air is being let in?
    • check and see how much outside air is being let in
    • you need some due to ASHRAE and OSHA standards

Visual demonstrating the different types of energy loads on a collections space
Visual demonstrating the different types of energy loads on a collections space

Another visualization of loads that drive energy use
Another visualization of loads that drive energy use

My favorite – and simplest – solution is to change the amount of air being pushed through your HVAC system. If you don’t have constant volume supply/ return fans, slow the fans down! You’ll maintain the environment you want, and save money and energy! Just make sure air is still being distributed evenly so your conditions stay constant. And BTW, supply and return fans are NOT the same as VAV fans. Those are smaller fans that are used the condition one room at a time based on how you set the thermostat in a single room.
Reducing air flow by reducing supply and return fan speeds = energy and money savings!
Reducing air flow by reducing supply and return fan speeds = energy and money savings!

Math and Physics for reduced air flow :)
Math and Physics for reduced air flow 🙂

Other recommendations have been to shut down equipment during unoccupied times and then turn the equipment back on. Bill doesn’t recommend this for a variety of reasons:

  • Wear and tear on equipment (e.g. motor belts)
  • The conditions are less than ideal, especially in the summer (I’ve experienced this issue)

Why not just shut the equipment off?
Why not just shut the equipment off?

Conditions are not maintained as well if you just shut the equipment off overnight
Conditions are not maintained as well if you just shut the equipment off overnight

Savings in the hypothetical gallery space
Savings in the hypothetical building’s gallery space

Bottom line? There are other ways to be smart with energy savings and STILL maintain the environmental conditions you want in your collections and exhibit spaces. So, don’t assume you need to relax your environmental standards to be a greener museum. Examine your overall building and systems with your facilities folks and see what you can find that might save you money in the long run without compromising your collections.
Super smart and super practical. This HVAC nerd gives this talk two thumbs up!

44th Annual Meeting – Research and Technical Studies, May 17, "Investigation of Fogging Glass Display Cases at the Royal Ontario Museum" by Helen Coxon et al

This was one of the sessions I tweeted (@taradkennedy), so this won’t be a long post, but I will give you a summary with lots of slide images!
So the problem: these brand-new exhibit cases were mysteriously fogging up for no apparent reason. And even better: once they were cleaned, the fog would roll right in; coming right back like a bad check. Some awesome examples of what was popping up on the inside AND the outside of the glass:

Hazing visible in China gallery case
Hazing visible in China gallery case

More fun hazing in brand-new cases.
More fun hazing in brand-new cases.

Like stars in the heavens... or crystalline structures that screamed salts to me...
Like stars in the heavens… or crystalline structures that screamed salts to me…

This one has track marks of some sort... totally bizarre.
This one has track marks of some sort… totally bizarre.

So what was this mysterious fog? Turns out it is a mix of things (it always is): definitely free sodium from the glass along with lactic acid, plasticizers, aromatic hydrocarbons… the digital shots of the GC/MS results are mostly illegible unless you have the peak locations memorized, but I did get a shot of where all of this stuff came from:
2016-05-17 11.22.46
So, everything from the air around the cases to the materials that they were cleaned with to the goo that they lubricated big, heavy machines with that moved the glass pieces around like this:
Images of glass during the manufacture process
Images of glass during the manufacture process

So, now what? Luckily Stephen Koob, King of the Glass Conservators, had a nonionic formula that worked!
Here’s the recipe. I hope you can read it.
Stephen Koob's Magic Glass Cleaning Solution (tm)
Stephen Koob’s Magic Glass Cleaning Solution ™

Hilariously, the glass manufacturer felt bad and came up with this six-stage cleaning kit for the museum to use. The museum was like… um, thanks, but no thanks. Yeah, not even the fussiest of conservators wants to do that much cleaning.
This talk was one of my favorite talks of the conference: folks presenting a practical problem in an accessible way that was thoroughly researched with a practical (nonionic) solution… SOLUTION, get it???
OK, I’ll stop now.

44th Annual Conference – Pre-Conference Workshop, May 14, "Choosing and Implementing a Fire Suppression System for a Collecting Institution" by Nick Artim et al

OK, I’ll be honest. The reasons why I went to this pre-conference workshop were:

  1. I had a business meeting in the afternoon and thought I’d better go to another session so I don’t look like a lazy git
  2. Nick Artim, Fire Protection Guru, was on the panel

Man, this would be a useful group to chat with back when we were trying to figure out which fire suppression system to go with for our rare book library years ago. For those of you not well-versed in fire suppression systems, this is a fairly comprehensive look at the different fire suppression systems available for cultural institutions. It also examines different investigations and processes looking into fire suppression systems for different cultural institutions.
Sprinklers at the Archives of Manitoba – Ala Rekrut
About the building itself: the Winnipeg Civic Auditorium was built in 1932; redeveloped in 1973 into Archives Building; new storage vault was created from the old concert hall that was part of the auditorium.
In 1994, the water micromist sprinkler systems were recommended, but they were too new and untested to be implemented at that point. So, they chose a wet pipe system and a dry pipe for cold storage in 1998.  However, there was limited sprinkler coverage in the public areas and they wanted to re-investigate the possibilities of installing a fire suppression system.
One of the biggest hurdles in this project was that the building is managed by another entity, so the Archives can’t really make any changes. Here’s the timeline:

  • Pre-2007: Building Conditions Assessment – recommendations included replacing HVAC systems, and installation of new sprinkler systems – so that they come close to building code (always a good thing)
  • 2007: Vault renovation for HVAC, but no sprinklers, sadly
  • 2010: Risk Management independent inspection: you should have 100% automatic sprinkler coverage, dudes. Bureaucracy stalls these things, you know
  • 2013: Fire system alarm upgrade – still no sprinklers…
  • 2015: Started project over again because the earlier estimates were way over budget – new team – what about sprinklers NOW? Finally YES we can investigate; water mist still not allowed, but they would investigate;who else has done this? Winnipeg Art Gallery had! What’s needed for water mist systems?
    • Filtered city water; high pressure mist; 1 meter clearance needed; low ceilings are out
    • Pump equipment sits on concrete slab 18” thick

A water-based conventional fire suppression system would be fine as well, but they will most likely go with a nitrogen gas (Inergen) system. It is still a work in progress…
You might be wondered how all of these recommendations could be ignored. Well, the answer is bureaucracy! The layers upon layers of government is why the building owners can ignore these recommendations. For example, recommendations from the province do not have to be heeded by the city government, for example. Also the building is grandfathered in due to its age.
 Sprinklers at the Peel Library at University of Alberta – Carolyn Morgan

This project was to be an expansion of fire suppression systems in the Library at the University of Alberta. There were some systems in the basement of Library buildings: Halon in the public area and front office, but not storage; there was also a decommission wet pipe system in the same areas as the Halon. There was also an Inergen system in the audiovisual vault. Storage “fire suppression” protection in main collections storage consisted of a fire hose. They do have heat and smoke detectors.
The expansion project was to start May 2015, so staff had four months to sort the entire expansion project including choosing an appropriate fire suppression system. Nothing like a little bit of pressure to make one be decisive!
So, the goal with this project: protect and preserve our collections.
What are our choices?

  • Gas systems: Inergen, Sapphire, FM-200
  • Water systems: Sprinkler systems, wet pipe, dry pipe, water mist – pre-action or no pre-action?
  • Hybrid: Victaulic Vortex

The chose the Victaulic Vortex system.
How did we come to our decision?

  • Eliminated gas systems because of lack of space for tanks; expensive; lack of airtight integrity
  • Eliminated water mist because of its unproven effectiveness where dense combustibles are present and the library lacked 1 meter ceiling clearance
  • One of their biggest challenges was the limited head room: could not run sprinkler system – but maybe they could? No wet or dry pipe systems –
  • selected Victaulic Vortex and double interlock pre-action sprinkler heads

Vicaulic Vortex – what’s that?

  • Nitrogen and water
    • Removes O2 and water and N2 65Km/ hour ; 10 microns drops of water
    • Very little wetting; doesn’t require airtight rooms; few heads; quick system recharge
    • High initial capital costs; need backup tanks; not widely used; may require a variance for acceptance by authority having jurisdiction

Double interlock pre-action heads – what’s that?

  • Basically like dry pipe but water is held by electronically-operated valve
  • You need: a detector system that must ID fire and open valve and the individual sprinkler heads are then activated
  • Complex system and require attachment to fire detection system

Sprinklers in Historic Houses – Canadian Conservation Institute – John Ward
This was a summary of considerations and case studies involving historic buildings and fire suppression systems, including what you can do when you have no fire suppression system.
Eldon House, Ontario

  • Typical house museum; very vulnerable; few have fire suppression system installed; usually fire detection system and that’s it
  • Historic buildings can have passive measures, or can have passive measures added without drastically changing the building itself. Some recommendations:
    • Compartmentalize buildings (fire-rated firewalls)
    • Consider reinstalling doors in the house and close them in off-hours
    • Check for vertical and lateral voids and fire-seal as required

They did review available fire suppression systems (eight of them) for the Eldon House and came to the following conclusions:

  • Eliminate clean systems (not a tight enough seal in building)
  • Water mist seems the safest but complicated to install; really best for rooms with special needs
  • Options within that list; feasible to consider for this historic house:
    • Pre-action dry pipe
    • Water mist (Marriott Hi-Fog)
      • Initially made for the cruise ship industry
    • Hybrid nitrogen and water mist (Victaulic Vortex)
      • For electronics/ computer rooms
      • New: only around 10 years
      • Doesn’t have to be ceiling mounted, moves around the room like a fog;
    • Wet pipe still viable; simplest

Sinclair Inn; earliest wood frame building in Canada, Nova Scotia

  • Victaulic Vortex doesn’t need to be used in a heated building!

Another hint mentioned: Keep at 15% O2 levels in high density storage to reduce fire risk – this is being used at the British Library’s high density storage building.
Canadian Centre for Architecture – Israel Dube-Marquis

  • Replacing an automatic fire protection system
    • Evaluation Before Choosing
      • Define needs
      • Context
      • Construction type
      • Area covered
      • Space available
      • Electrical emergency power
      • Detection systems
      • Security monitoring
    • NFPA
      • NFPA 750 for water mist
    • System evaluation criterias

[Unfortunately, I had a difficult time understanding this presenter, so I didn’t take many notes – if anyone has anything to add to this presentation, please add the information in the comments!]
Heritage Protection Group – Nick Artim
His talk basically covers elements one should consider when deciding upon a fire suppression system for your cultural institution and which choices are available to you at this time.
But first: a funny quote: “Disaster: an emergency we screw up.”

  • Best fire suppression system?
    • What do you want to have left after the fire?
    • What’s the building like?
      • What’s it made of?
    • What are the collections?
    • What is the recovery capability?
    • How are the collections arranged?
    • The people who occupy and visit the building? How many?
    • Rural or urban?
    • Fire safety elements
      • Fire prevention
      • Life safety
      • Fire resistance
      • Fire detections
      • Fire suppression
      • Recovery
    • NFPA
      • Codes 909; 914 – historic structures and cultural properties
      • Not prescriptive; all of us stakeholders are to become part of the process to become part of the solution
    • Smoldering phase can last for several hours
    • British Library – did the low O2 system because of its size; there is no good choice for fire suppression system
    • The better the Fire Department knows your building, the better off you are
  • Automatic Fire Systems
    • Standard pressure sprinkler
      • Gets everything wet so it doesn’t burn
      • Prevents fire from growing
      • Failure tends to happen: in piping material and fitting
      • A LOT of water
      • Wet load: HEAVY for paper
    • Water mist
      • Developed from the maritime industry
      • Water droplet and cause it to explode
      • Microdroplet with more surface area which becomes the coolant – engineering finesse required for it to work well
      • Air suspension – more flexibility
      • Mist can be drawn into the combustion process – more like a gas than rain
      • More precise fittings; very durable
      • Works pretty well – Monticello has it
      • Excellent in remote area where it’s hard to get water source
    • Wet pipe, dry pipe, pre-action, deluge
      • Water is always in a pipe; dry pipe is for areas where freezing is a possibility
    • Gas Systems (“clean system”)
      • Control fire without water damage
      • Not exactly damage-free – discharge speed, e.g. – be careful where you put the nozzle for discharge
      • Details on where those discharge nozzles go
      • Compartment application systems – air tight or gas will not stay in concentration
      • CO2, Nitrogen, aerosol – Potassium-based solid – post-damage potential? What does all that potassium do to the art? Halocarbons (FM-200; Novec)
    • Hybrid (Nitrogen and Water)… and we ran out of time.

44th Annual Meeting – Collections Care, May 15, "Comprehensive Collection Risk Assessment at Museum Victoria" by Maryanne McCubbin and Robert Waller

This presentation focused on using the Cultural Property Risk Analysis Model (CPRAM) at the Museum Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. If you scroll to the bottom of this web page you can obtain a free e-copy of CPRAM from Protect Heritage.
Museum Victoria, founded in 1854, specializes in a large range of materials and disciplinary types; natural sciences, indigenous cultures, history and technology. Less than 1% of collection is on exhibit at any given time. The museum complex has a wide range of facilities and each contain very different operational management and environments, and therefore different challenges:

  • Melbourne Museum – newest building – half of collections storage is in this space
  • Royal Exhibitions building – World Heritage listed building; paleontology and geology collection are stored in basement of this facility. They are being moved out of space currently because of the risks associated with storing them here (part of the CPRAM process)
  • Emigration museum – state registered building – just exhibits in this space
  • Off site collections storage – 50% spatially of our collections
  • Pumping stations – contains collection items
  • Science works – 3rd of their exhibition facilities

Summary of Museum Victoria’s experience of working on the CPRAM:
There are a lot of different risks in Museum Victoria’s collections. Before doing the CPRAM, it is important to recognize boundaries between collections and divide collections into discrete units, with exhibits being its own discrete collections unit. In total, there were 38 collections assessment units, with the assessments about 2/3rds of the way completed; 1/4 was completed by September of 2014 (unsure about beginning date). The initiative utilize a lot of staff time, but the Museum considered it a “Redirection” of time spent by staff instead of an extraordinary demand. In other words, they made this work a priority.
Museum Victoria’s main interest in doing the CPRAM was to assess the loss in utility value of collections over time. Value of course is considered in the context of the Museum, including historical/technological; exhibition; scientific; and cultural values to the Museum.
The remaining information below is only somewhat valuable if you are not familiar with the CPRAM model. I recommend getting the CPRAM document from Protect Heritage to understand the context of some of the information below (I was typing information that was on the PowerPoint slides that Robert was showing, and I added some additional information):
Risk Model Enhancements Completed at Museum Victoria:

  • Comprehensiveness
    • Source of risk + type of risk = generic risk – then broken down into specific risk – creating a quantitative sense of risk
  • Accountability
    • Ratio of other elements – 0 – 1 scale
    • Accountable for proving this is not the case?
  • Instrumental power
    • 200 page emergency plan = symbolic of the amount of risk, but who is going to read a 200 page emergency plan? Especially in an emergency.
    • Show risks that are within the control of the facility manager
    • Customized information
  • Extensive external critical reviews
    • Comprehensiveness
    • Clarity
    • Evidence
    • Appropriate model
    • Data sourcing
    • Benchmarking
    • Introduce to a range of benchmarks from other institutions
    • Done own research
    • External input is critical in adoption – to become self sufficient
  • Ongoing reporting
    • Implementing and gaining support at an institution-wide level including the Board – this is the hardest part
    • Reporting at all levels – templates that Robert provided
    • Aggregate and detailed data
  • Integrated incident reports into museum facilities
    • Redeveloped incident reporting
      • Online collection incident reporting
    • We don’t report all incidents – not realistic
    • Consistency of logic to encourage consistency of result, e.g. number scale, etc.
    • Evidence of data – put effort toward that instead of assuming the problem

44th Annual Meeting – Sustainability, May 16, "Sustainable Preservation on a Small Island: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Passive and Mechanized Environments" by Jeremy Linden et al.

This talk’s subject matter was as advertised: a preservation environment project on a remote island off the coast of Maine: Monhegan, Maine.
Never heard of Monhegan? Join the club. The island is protected by legislation – it is considered a conservation zone, since the island is fragile and so are its resources. On this tiny island is the Monhegan Museum. They were looking to improve the environment in the museum while also being sustainable: the environment was the only issue that the museum had not addressed in the CAP Report that was completed for the museum a number of years ago. So the museum got a PAG grant, bought some PEM2 dataloggers to get environmental data, and then brought in the Image Permanence Institute (IPI) to help improve their environment.
By the way, if you ask Ron Harvey, the CAP grant is the gateway drug to grants! 🙂
The island sounds like a lovely place… in the summer. Its remote location creates challenges, especially in the winter. The water lines are above ground, so water freezes in the winter. No wonder the population on the island plummets in the winter: 800 in the summer to *50* in the winter. it doesn’t help that the only way on and off the island is by boat: the mail comes by boat, the artwork travels by boat… you get the idea.
Overall, the building had some HVAC elements, but it wasn’t consistent, mostly due to the additions of buildings gifted to the museum, like the Assistant Lightkeeper’s house, which was gifted to the museum in 1998, and turned into a collections vault. The vault has HVAC and the office has heat, but the gallery spaces were unheated, mostly because they only have exhibitions during the warmer months.
First order of business: monitor the environment and get data. Some alarming conditions popped up:

  • Rising damp was discovered in the building due to how water flowed, so luckily that was simple water mitigation: move the water away from building instead of letting it drain into the basement
  • Working with climate control in a passive manner: using things like foam doors to reduce moisture migration, for example
  • Extremes of environment in this space

So, what’s an island with significant collections to do?
Luckily, this is not IPI’s first rodeo in challenging environments. So what were some of the things they chose to do based on the limited services and accessibility?

  • Period appropriate repairs to bring the keeper’s house closer to its original intended performance while remaining a passive building. Not every building needs an air handler, so let’s try to bring the building back to how it was supposed to behave in its original construction.
  • What about energy reduction and efficiency?
    • Testing strategies (seasonal set points, controlled shutdowns) to allow the mechanized vaults to operate passively for portions of the year while improving preservation
    • Improving energy generation on the island and recovering waste heat as a new source of energy
    • Good construction to original building helps a lot
    • Passive operations during parts of the year
    • Ranges and guidelines safe for collections
    • One of the HUGE challenges was electricity. The wiring needed repairs, but the museum was able to work with the power company and help from them to recover wasted heat for collections during the winter
  • Re-purposing appropriate structures to improve collections storage/ exhibit
    • Ice House
      • Extended the collection storage to include both the upper and lower floors to accommodate the need for appropriate storage for the expanding art collections
    • Gallery
      • CHECK THIS OUT: Solar thermal dehumidification to manage high summer RH! SO COOL (if you pardon the pun)
      • Addition of vapor and thermal barrier in the exposed dirt crawlspace to reduce vapor transfer into the building

To keep in mind: strategies and solutions that are appropriate to place – specifics may not be broadly applicable but the process certainly is! I thought it was an excellent example of collaboration while being considerate of an historic building – lots of places aren’t. This project demonstrated excellent teamwork and the awesomely amazing things an interdisciplinary team can do!
Some questions that came up after the talk:
How did you deal with the rising damp? The answer was downspouts and a French drain; also a plus that water loves to run downhill away from building, so the fact that the museum was set up high was to their advantage
What IS Solar-thermal Dehumidification anyway?: essentially they are running the desiccant system with the SUN only during the summer! The desiccant system is a Munters unit by the way. The vapor barrier is plastic sheeting over the top of the dirt layer in the crawlspaces to prevent rising damp.

43rd Annual Meeting – Sustainability session – May 15, 2015 – "Achieving Competing Goals: Energy Efficient Cold Storage" by Shengyin Xu et al

This presentation provides a case study from the Minnesota Historical Society for a cold storage unit that is inefficient and could perhaps provide better conditions within its given parameters. One problem with specialty storage is the high cost of running specialized environmental systems. So, what can one do for optimal conditions for cold storage yet still save on energy cost?
In 2012, an NEH Sustainability Planning Grant was secure to investigate the possibilities available for improving their cold storage. It is hoped that the collaborative design process could achieve better preservation condition in the long term and use energy savings more efficiently and potentially see actual savings.
Currently, their cold storage unit ran at 62F and 40%RH and was a very small space: 2% of their overall storage space. Its current conditions provided a Preservation Index (PI) of approximately 100. It utilized 7% of the Historical Society’s annual energy use, but wasn’t providing the conditions it needed for good cold storage of audiovisual collections.
The Historical Society went through a variety of condition and compared PI numbers to see what various conditions could provide in terms of collection storage longevity. Beyond that, they also investigated capital costs associated with retrofitting the unit to provide those conditions. Lastly, they examined the costs associated with running the unit for the long term. They balanced all three of these factors in order to come to a solution that would be beneficial on all three levels: collections environment, capital costs, and sustainability.
I will admit that I had a hard time following the flow of this presentation, especially toward the end when gears were shifted from environmental conditions of cold storage to air quality examination. One of the frustrating points of the presentation were these air quality tables that were too small to be legible on the screen.Visual charts would have been helpful to demonstrate the different air quality levels that were present and what they were trying to achieve. I also didn’t fully understand what this part of the presentation had to do with the rest of the talk.