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  • Writer's pictureBecky Fifield

Museum Monday – Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections

Spinach? It’s our not-quite-precise pronunciation of the SPNHC acronym for the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections. Visit their website here.

I have never worked for a natural history museum, but the challenges in preserving science collections for study leads to SPNHC’s natural interest in preventive conservation and collection care. The importance of preventive conservation is that by taking actions to mitigate the various agents of deterioration, we prevent damage that traditional conservation treatment could never hope to restore.

On a panel at the Preventive Care session at the SPNHC conference at New Haven. Photo: RP Arenstein.

I work with art and history collections, so I’m not too up on cryo collections and ornithology. But preventive conservation is a message we can all get behind, and the Preventive Care session on Thursday was fantastic. Speakers during this day-long session discussed current efforts around collections risk assessment, getting HVAC systems to work for you and save energy through selective shut-off, and consideration of gallery design to instill proper behaviors in your visiting public and thereby increase preservation.

I gave a talk (co-authored by Rachael Arenstein of AM Art Conservation, and Molly Gleeson) on preventive conservation resources.

Keep an eye on SPNHC, even if you don’t work in science museums. Collaborations in unexpected ways leads to innovation, especially in collection care.

Here are some links to some of the resources I mentioned in my talk:

eclimatenotebook – web-based climate monitoring software from the Image Permanence Institute – Information for your Integrated Pest Management Program, from prevention to handling an infestation

Benchmarks in Collection Care – An evaluation for your collection care policies and practices.

Heritage Preservation (Heritage Health Index, Capitalize on Collections, Connecting to Collections, Alliance for Response) – Incredible resources for fundraising for collection care and emergency response – and much more.

National Park Service Conserve-o-Grams – short articles on a staggering array of museum practice topics.

Cultural Property Risk Analysis Model (Protect Heritage) – Collections risk assessment methodology, support, and resources.

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