2021 Annual Conference Program

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Back to Sustainable Practices

Theme: Transform

Date and Location: May 3 - June 24, 2021, virtual


Evaluating the Effects of COVID-19 Changes in Mechanical System Operation on Collections Environments[edit | edit source]

Speaker: Kelly Krish, Preventive Conservation Specialist, Image Permanence Institute, Rochester, NY, USA

Abstract[edit | edit source]

The onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic forced many institutions to implement changes in the operation of their mechanical system(s) as a result of reduced occupancy, to save money, or to slow the spread of the virus. These changes, from complete system shutdowns during lengthy closure periods to using increased amounts of outside air during humid summer months, had often not been previously tested. Depending on the specific situation, these actions can have significant impact on the short-term quality of a preservation environment but can also inform the long-term planning and future of sustainability within cultural heritage.

The Image Permanence Institute (IPI) set out to: 1) evaluate the effects of these changes with respect to their impact on preservation, and 2) to share with the field how to best use this information to enact long-term changes that improve both preservation and sustainability.

An online survey collected data about topics including: pre-existing emergency plans for mechanical system adjustments, decision-making processes pertaining to mechanical system operation, institutional concerns associated with changes made, and the observed changes/impact to collections environments during closures. Evaluating this data provided insight into what a similar incident may mean to other institutions and how to avoid negative consequences when making emergency operational changes. Planning for emergency operations includes identifying the key factors for success, laying out appropriate guidelines, and testing strategies in advance to understand their impact.

Six institutions that responded to the survey were selected for a more in-depth analysis, particularly those experiencing challenges related to the implementation of strategies during modified operations due to COVID-19. The data can be used in long-term planning to assess the quality of their building envelope, capacity of their mechanical system(s), and effectiveness of their mitigation strategies. Operating mechanical systems to strict museum standards can result in high energy costs and, consequentially, a larger carbon footprint; seeing how collection spaces responded to these changes indicates which strategies can become a permanent part of operations, leading to lower energy costs and a reduced carbon footprint. Alternatively, if strategies, even with modifications, are not appropriate at a specific institution, they will be prepared and able to prioritize capital spend-ing to make the most significant changes for preservation and energy-savings.

While human health has always been, and will remain, the overriding factor to determine mechanical system operations, the current safety guidelines, IPI’s previous experiences in implementation, and the results of the survey and in-depth analysis, all build towards a better understanding of our indoor spaces and how we can best operate to ensure a sustainable future for our collections and our environment.

The Migration of Coconuts: The Historic Uses of Coconut Shell Across Cultures and its Presence in Museum Collections[edit | edit source]

Speaker: Elena Bowen, Graduate Conservation Fellow, RLA Conservation, Miami, FL, USA

Abstract[edit | edit source]

A scene from one of my favorite movies, 1975’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail, leads to a humorous discussion between King Arthur and a castle guard about what type of swallow could carry a coconut from tropical climates to the temperate zone of Great Britain. While coconuts may not have been transported across the continents by swallows, as suggested in this scene, coconut shell has found its way into the material culture of societies across nearly every continent. From carved ornate goblets thought to have curative powers to utilitarian tools such as spoons and water containers, coconut shell is a raw material with endless possibilities that at one point in history even inspired a coconut cult. One of the unique and useful qualities of coconuts, is that every part of the coconut is useful. The inner milk and meat are nutritious components that can be consumed raw or cooked, the shell and husk are used as an efficient biofuel, and the fibers harvested from the coconut husk can be used to create rope and textiles. These are merely examples of the many uses for coconut worldwide.

My fascination with coconuts stems from a graduate curriculum treatment of a Puerto Rican vejigante mask. I was familiar with this object from my childhood travels to Puerto Rico but couldn’t connect that nostalgic familiarity to my scientific knowledge of materials. It was then that I decided to focus my thesis research on coconut shell usage, aging, and treatment. This poster will focus on the results of a preliminary survey of the Fowler Museum at UCLA collection, the subsequent Google Forms survey sent out to colleagues across the globe, and research into coconut as a cultural phenomenon.

Sustainability Committee Ask an Expert Q&A: Zero Waste[edit | edit source]

Speaker: Angela Moore