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Conservation Standards & Guidelines for Exhibitions Utilizing Museum Collections

INTRODUCTION

The goal of The Standards and Guidelines is to ensure that exhibits are safe for exhibited objects. The Standards are intended to establish object-safe practices when exhibits are designed in-house and also to guide the procurement process when exhibits are to be developed by contractors. The aim is that every object will come off exhibition in as good condition as when it was first selected for exhibit.

In addition, The Standards and Guidelines is intended not only to establish standards for the preservation of displayed collections, but also to play an active role in promoting the adoption of those standards. It is intended as an educational resource, an agent for advocacy, and a user-friendly document that can reach out to a wide readership. And it is these objectives that have dictated the particular form the document has taken:

  • Serving as an educational resource: The Standards & Guidelines is designed to make available, as readers require, the practical information they may need to plan, design, fabricate and install preservation-responsible exhibits. Each Standard is accompanied by several Guidelines that comprise the practical steps that help fulfill that standard. And each Guideline is supported by explanatory information, technical advice, and relevant resources. An electronic format will allow readers to access this more detailed information as required and to navigate between the broad Standards, the more specific Guidelines, and the practical information that describes how to carry out a Guideline. Much of the material for this text has been provided by Exhibit Conservation Guidelines: Incorporating Conservation into Exhibit Planning, Design and Fabrication, an electronic publication produced in 1999.
  • Addressing a diverse readership: Successful conservation is a team effort, depending not only upon the efforts of the exhibition’s conservator, but also upon the efforts and commitment of a host of museum staff—the museum administrators, the exhibit designer, the exhibit planner, the fabricator, the housekeeping staff, etc. The Standards & Guidelines is therefore addressed to a wide readership and not only to conservation professionals.
  • Outlining a systematic process: To be effective, conservation efforts cannot be tagged on at the end of the exhibit planning process but must be introduced at the first stages of exhibit development and integrated systematically throughout. The Standards & Guidelines is therefore organized to reflect the timeline for exhibit development: Exhibit Planning (assembling the exhibit team, budgeting, scheduling, object selection, and assessment); Exhibit Design (selecting options for mitigating damage to objects); Exhibit Fabrication (building exhibit structures, object treatment, modification of the exhibit area); and Exhibit Installation (installing objects, monitoring the exhibit environment, maintenance). Taken together, The Standards & Guidelines outline a methodical process for ensuring that conservation concerns are efficiently and effectively incorporated into exhibit development.
  • Serving as an advocate for conservation: Since successful exhibit conservation depends upon the combined efforts of the many different museum specialists involved in the exhibit process, it is essential that museum staff are convinced that the extra time and expense required for effective conservation are worthwhile. The Standards & Guidelines therefore endeavors to demonstrate the importance of conservation efforts, providing not only the “hows” of conservation practices but also emphasizing the “whys.”
  • Promoting Accessibility: The electronic web-based format will allow The Standards & Guidelines to be universally accessible. This format will also allow The Standards & Guidelines to be a living document that can invite contributions from conservation professionals and that can be revised and expanded as techniques and technology evolve. It can also include images, video clips and links to take the reader to other Internet resources.