- 1 Guideline 9.1: The exhibit team collaborates with the designer to select conservation safeguards that will best meet the Conservation Requirements
Guideline 9.1: The exhibit team collaborates with the designer to select conservation safeguards that will best meet the Conservation Requirements
Why is teamwork necessary in selecting options to meet the Conservation Requirements?
An exhibit team cannot successfully meet the conservation requirements and protect objects by incorporating a few random safeguards into exhibit design. To be effective, conservation solutions must be planned out systematically and must be matched to the needs and circumstances of the exhibit.
The team should methodically weigh their options to arrive at the approach that meets the object conservation requirements and the needs of the exhibit plan while also remaining within budget and schedule.
Because hazard mitigation can be achieved in a variety of ways, the designer will need to collaborate with exhibit team members and other museum personnel in order to select the most appropriate measures from the host of options. The conservator will be able to suggest suitable conservation strategies. The designer and curator can determine what conservation measures will best suit the interpretive needs of the exhibit; while the exhibit coordinator together with other museum personnel can determine what aspects of mitigation could perhaps be shouldered by the museum, either through structural upgrades, such as building-wide climate controls, or through museum policies and staff training.
What are the main approaches to meeting the Conservation Requirements?
There are three main avenues through which hazard mitigation can be achieved:
- Physical Design and Construction: The designer utilizes an exhibit layout and design features that promote object-safety; these might include the exhibit floor plan, object mounting and placement, well-designed exhibit enclosures, non-hazardous construction materials etc. Physical modifications to the exhibit space or building can also be used: these might include installing a vapor barrier, conducting repairs and upgrades, building a vestibule, covering or double-glazing windows, etc.
- Technological Controls: These include mechanical devices that promote an object-safe environment: employing heating/ventilating/and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, specialized air filtration systems and pollutant absorbers, humidity controlling devices, security cameras and alarms, smoke and water detectors, etc.
- Museum Procedures: These include policies and regulations such as no-smoking policies, establishing a pest control program, prohibiting food and drink in the exhibit space, conducting staff training in security and maintenance, etc.
An example of the different approaches to meeting the Conservation Requirement: meeting security requirements
- Physical Design: Security can be enhanced through the exhibit’s physical design by ensuring open lines of sight in the galleries, installing barriers around displays, or designing exhibit cases with resistant materials and security glazing. It may be possible to install doors that provide greater security or to block or bar windows, etc.
- Technological controls such as cameras, sensors and alarms can also be installed in the building, the exhibit gallery or a specific case.
- Museum Procedures: The museum can enhance security by giving security training to staff, providing a visitor sign-in book, limiting the number of keys to the building and exhibit cases, or hiring more security guards.
Successful hazard mitigation will generally draw upon a combination of these broad approaches.
What variables should the team consider when creating a plan to meet the Conservation Requirements?
To arrive at conservation strategies that will be both effective and feasible, the team should take into account the specific nature of their exhibit and the exhibit location. The main variables to consider are:
- Existing conservation features and policies: Many museums will have effective conservation features in place and these will provide the starting point for further hazard mitigation. Whenever possible it is most efficient to build upon existing features because this will allow continuity in system maintenance, minimize the need to retrain staff, and can save considerable amounts of money.
- Elements of the Exhibit Plan: These include:
- Interpretive intent of the exhibit: The interpretive intent behind the exhibit may recommend one approach over another. If, for example, an historic exhibit of pioneer life calls for the settlers’ personal possessions to be exhibited in individual displays, it will not be possible to solve the problem of humidity control by grouping together the humidity-sensitive objects in one climate-controlled case. Several climate-controlled cases may be needed or controls throughout the exhibit location.
- Exhibit duration: The length of the exhibit will help determine whether it is worth investing in mitigation strategies that require modifications to the building or whether mitigation should be accomplished through exhibit design and display cases.
- The number of objects requiring safeguards: The greater the number of vulnerable display items, the more cost-effective it can be to install environmental controls at the gallery or building level than merely at the case level.
- The Exhibit Location: Characteristics of the location will help determine the choice of conservation strategies. For example, while light dimmers and climate controls can be easily incorporated into an exhibit space when it is first constructed, such modifications to an historic structure could be cost-prohibitive.
- The Resources Available: Conservation strategies must fall within the exhibit budget. As important, funds must be available to maintain the selected conservation safeguards for the duration of the exhibit.