Guideline 9.5

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The following Standards and Guidelines are a work in progress intended to spur discussion between exhibit personnel, conservators and other museum professionals. Please check back in the future as information is added to expand on the Guidelines without currently active links.
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Guideline 9.5: The exhibit design includes back-up conservation safeguards

When is it important to include back-up safeguards?

Whatever exhibit conservation strategies are chosen, there is the possibility that the well-engineered preservation feature or system will fail. The designer together with the conservator should therefore determine how long the exhibit could maintain stable conditions under a major failure such as a loss of electricity. Such projections can help identify whether equipment repair or replacement can occur quickly enough to prevent major risks to the collections and whether a backup safeguard, such as a second compressor or portable dehumidifiers, is required.

Backup systems and the inclusion of redundant systems incur an extra expense and must be justified. However, they should especially be considered for the display of highly significant or vulnerable collections, or exhibits in high-risk areas, such as areas with aggressive climates, a high risk of earthquakes, or high crime rates.

What are some examples of back-up safeguards?

Conservation hardware and controls can be backed up with additional equipment or supplies:

  • Water pipe fire suppression sprinklers can be backed up with ABC handheld fire extinguishers
  • The building’s HVAC system can be backed up with portable humidifiers / dehumidifiers
  • Replacement parts that are the most likely to fail can also be kept on hand.
  • A useful safeguard for highly moisture-sensitive objects is to install humidity controls in the exhibit building or room and then to provide a climate controlled display case that will continue to provide protection if the building controls fail.


Back-up safeguards need not be complicated. A useful back-up in earthquake zones is to put cushioning material on the floor to prevent falling objects from smashing.