Team members work cooperatively to achieve an exhibit that balances the requirements of conservation with the goals of the exhibit.
Why is collaboration essential for effective conservation?
- Although the exhibit conservator will recommend the necessary conditions, such as controlled levels of humidity, to protect an object while on display, there may be several ways to fulfill these recommendations. Humidity, for example, can be managed through a building's climate controls, room controls, or a sealed exhibit case. Furthermore, some of the recommended conditions will be more critical to object safety than others. The exhibit team should therefore work together to select the conservation strategy that achieves a satisfactory balance between the recommended conditions (or conservation requirements) and the educational, interpretive and aesthetic goals of the exhibit.
- Such balanced solutions require teamwork and creativity as well as compromise, especially in the following situations:
In what situations should team members be particularly aware of the need for collaboration?
- Accommodating highly restrictive conservation requirements for an object or an entire collection.
- When the collections intended for exhibit are highly vulnerable or valuable, collaboration will be required to develop the practical and creative approaches necessary for these objects’ protection. On occasion, it may be necessary to reassess design goals or to reconsider displaying a particularly vulnerable object that could be exchanged with a less vulnerable object or replaced by a reproduction.
- Examples of appropriate compromises to protect highly vulnerable objects include the following:
- • Objects with similar vulnerabilities are grouped together even though this is not consistent with exhibit themes or sub-themes
- • The team considers displaying the highly vulnerable objects for shorter time periods
- • Highly vulnerable objects are rotated off exhibit during periods of low visitation
- • The exhibit design allows for higher illumination levels but a decrease in the amount of time the lights are on in order to control the cumulative light exposure for collections that require more light for proper viewing.
- Working with a limited budget and schedule.
- Limited budgets and schedules can make it difficult to meet the objects’ conservation requirements. Again, team members should share responsibility for mediating their differences and working out compromises.
- Examples of appropriate compromises include the following:
- • If time consuming and/or expensive conservation treatment of an object is an issue, the object could be rotated into the exhibit at a later date. In some cases, it may be possible to complete the problematic treatment in phases, removing the object from exhibit after the exhibit opens in order to continue its treatment.
- • ‘Images’ of exhibit objects may take the place of vulnerable objects, or fewer objects that are in better condition could be used.
- • Specialized fundraising for preservation activities is also a possibility: Where funding is unavailable, partners and sponsors could be asked to provide resources to allow certain, notable objects to be preserved and made ready for exhibit.
- • When specialized exhibit cabinetry is required for the safe exhibition of certain objects, this could also be procured through fundraising or sponsorship by “Friends” groups.
- • In some exhibits, open display of objects could be considered as a design option that could save the major expense of fabricating individual exhibit cases. In this event, the staff could increase security by restricting the size of the visitor groups and guiding them with docents.