Guideline 7.1

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Guideline 7.1:
The exhibit conservator assesses the proposed exhibit location (and possible alternatives) to determine what environmental and security threats are present and what safeguards will be necessary to protect display collections.

What are the benefits of assessing the proposed exhibit location?

Benefits of assessing the proposed exhibit location include:
Identifying the specific conservation hazards in the proposed location. The exhibit conservator will use these results to set the conservation requirements for the exhibit objects.
Refining the budget and schedule. The team can more accurately anticipate what types of safeguards may be necessary to protect exhibit objects during display and can refine the budget and installation schedule accordingly.
Indicating necessary modifications to the exhibit plan. The assessment could also spotlight problems that would be so difficult or expensive to correct that the exhibit team should consider finding an alternative location or selecting less vulnerable exhibit objects for exhibit.

Why should a location be assessed for each new exhibit?

Each exhibit presents its own unique set of characteristics such as the particular type of objects to be displayed, the duration of the exhibit, and the number and type of visitors anticipated. Because the potential hazards in an exhibit location will be more or less significant depending upon these particular features of the exhibit, the conservator should evaluate the location anew for each exhibit. For example, light from incandescent fixtures that would not have posed a hazard to an exhibition of ceramics could be very damaging to objects that are particularly light sensitive, such as pigmented organic material. Similarly, a confined exhibit space that had accommodated a continuous flow of visitors might become dangerously crowded if the exhibit plan includes schools groups and tours.

What features should be evaluated during the conservation assessment of an exhibit location?

The Conservation Assessment should evaluate all aspects of the exhibit location that could have an effect upon exhibit objects; this includes features within the exhibit space, such as dimensions of the space, built features, and ambient environmental quality, as well as features of the wider location, such as security concerns in the neighborhood, the likelihood of flooding, proximity to fire hydrants, and the prevalence of pests in vegetation surrounding the building.
Following are two alternative approaches to conducting a location assessment, with examples of questions asked:
1. The first approach examines the location with reference to the agents of deterioration.
Assessing the location with reference to the Agents of Deterioration:
1.1 Physical Damage: Does the location provide reasonable protection from sources of physical damage: earthquakes, vibration, abrasion, transport and accidents? Is the space large enough to accommodate expected crowds without bumping and crowding?
1.2 Fire: Does the exhibit location provide reasonable protection from fire: a detection system (and preferably a suppression system) is in place and the exhibit will not create fire hazards.
1.3 Criminal Activity: Does the exhibit location provide adequate safeguards against losses due to criminals originating both from outside and inside the museum; is vandalism restricted?
1.4 Water Damage: Does the exhibit location provide reliable protection from flooding and leaks from plumbing, roof and windows?
1.5 Damaging Radiation: Does the exhibit location prohibit direct sunlight and strong artificial light from reaching the objects?
1.6 Contaminants: Does the exhibit location include measures to reduce pollutants: do windows and doors close properly; are air filters well-maintained?
1.7 Pests: Does the exhibit location incorporate control measures to restrict the entry of insects and vermin and reduce the possibility of the germination of microorganisms.
1.8 Temperature Control: Is the exhibit space subjected to inappropriate levels of temperature; are excessively high or low temperatures safeguarded against?
1.9 Relative Humidity Control: Is the exhibit location subjected to inappropriate levels of relative humidity?

2. The second approach examines features of the location and the surrounding area to identify hazards:
Assessing the location with reference to site features:
2.1 Does the location accommodate the physical requirements of the exhibit plan?
Will the space accommodate the size of the exhibit being planned or will displays become dangerously overcrowded and cramped?
Will the space safely accommodate the anticipated number of visitors?
Is the infrastructure of the site adequate to handle additional activities: for example, can the floor bear the extra load?  ::::Are the electrical wiring and plumbing adequate?
2.2 Does the space contain features that could be hazardous to the exhibit objects?
(Note: The following features would be more problematic for some types of objects than for others.)Does the space have overhead water pipes?
Is the space located near areas where food is prepared or consumed?
Do windows open directly to the outdoors (a potential hazard for objects sensitive to light, pollutants, and temperature and humidity changes)?
Do air quality data for the space indicate the presence of contaminants or extremes of temperature and relative humidity?
Do features such as exterior windows and doors or an isolated location indicate a security deficiency?
Does the space have exterior walls that could transmit temperature differential?
2.3 What are potential hazards in the exhibit building:
Does the building have a flat roof prone to flooding?
Do the floors have insufficient load-bearing capacity?
Does the building have unsecured entrances?
How reliable is the electrical wiring—are malfunctions likely?
Is the museum located far from fire hydrants?
Is the construction earthquake resistant?
2.4 What are potential hazards in the surrounding environment:
What is the likelihood of natural disasters such as flooding, earthquake, and wildfires?
Does surrounding vegetation harbor vermin or insect pests?
What is the ambient air quality?
What are the hazardous climatic periods of the year?
2.5 In climates with periods of extreme cold, heat or humidity that can pose severe hazards to susceptible objects, does the exhibit space have many of the following protective features?
Few exterior walls
No doors or windows opening directly to the outdoors
Floor above ground level and thus not prone to damp or flooding
Vapor barriers in the walls, floor, and ceiling
Weather seals and insulated walls, floor, and ceiling
Double or triple glazing on windows
An adequately sized HVAC system with multiple zones
An HVAC system that includes features for the control of humidity
2.6 If deficiencies are identified, the assessment should also include an evaluation of how feasible it will be to modify the space
Can windows be blocked?
Can climate controls be added to the room or a climate-controlled case be used?
Can the infrastructure be upgraded to improve electrical wiring and load bearing?
Will the exhibit budget be able to cover the necessary expenses?

Sample Form for Exhibit Location Assessment

  • Exhibit Location Assessment: Assessment of Conditions in Proposed Exhibit Location and Level of Threats to Objects