Guideline 1.3

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Guideline 1.3:
The exhibit budget includes sufficient funds for conservation.
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The budget should allocate sufficient funds for conservation activities to ensure they can be successfully completed. A series of cost estimates will help to progressively refine the accuracy of budget needs. They can also provide warning that effective conservation cannot be provided unless the exhibit plan is modified. These estimates can be initiated at the beginning of the exhibit process as conservation needs are identified.
Estimates for conservation expenditures generally cover the involvement of conservation specialists for consulting and for conservation treatment. For successful conservation, however, further expenditures will probably be required (e.g. costs of mitigation, specialized air filtration equipment, installing climate controls, etc.) that, when identified, will need to be covered in the general budget.

How does a series of cost estimates help budget for conservation?

The amount to budget to ensure effective conservation will differ greatly from exhibit to exhibit. Conservation costs will vary according to the number and vulnerability of the objects, the hazards presented by the exhibit space, and the exhibit plan itself (such as the intended length of display, expected number of visitors, number of vulnerable objects to be displayed). It is therefore useful to begin estimating costs early in exhibit planning.
The initial estimates will give a rough idea of the resources that should be budgeted and whether the exhibit plan should be modified in keeping with budget realities. As information becomes available during the planning process, estimates of cost can be made with increasing precision.

How to create a general budget estimate

A preliminary estimate created for early planning purposes is often called a “class C estimate.” This is an approximation of conservation costs, developed before detailed exhibit information is available (i.e. the number of exhibit objects is not yet known nor are the exhibit’s Conservation Requirements [link to glossary] identified).
This estimate is usually generated from information in one of two categories: either the square footage of the projected exhibit or the exhibit’s estimated production cost.
In large museums, for small to medium-sized exhibits, the required conservation resources typically amount to $30 a square foot or 15% of the production budget. For larger exhibits the percentage of the budget can be lowered

How to create a comprehensive budget estimate

A comprehensive or detailed estimate is difficult to develop during early planning. It becomes more feasible once object selection has been completed and the conservator has examined the objects that are likely to be exhibited and identified their conservation needs.
A detailed estimate usually itemizes a conservation specialist’s involvement in the following three areas:
General conservation coordination and consultation:
Meeting attendance
Review of exhibit documents
Discussion with designer on mitigation strategies
Development of Conservation Requirements [link to glossary]
Testing of new exhibit materials (ensures such materials will not be harmful to objects)
Onsite work, including assessments and installation:
Exhibit object assessment (assesses object vulnerability and condition, suitability for display, and treatment needs)
Exhibit location assessment (assesses space for environmental conditions and conservation hazards)
Packing of problematic objects (exceptionally vulnerable pieces may need specialized packing techniques)
Oversight of object installation
Conservation treatment costs:
Development of conservation treatment proposals
Conservation treatment and documentation of exhibit objects

Sample Time and Cost Estimate for A Conservator’s Exhibit Involvement

A conservator’s involvement in the exhibit process is a key factor in effective exhibit conservation. Consequently, a conservator’s time forms a major component of the conservation budget. Because each exhibit is unique it is impossible to offer an exact figure for the costs of a conservator’s involvement. However, to provide a rough guide for estimating the amount of time and money to budget, an outline of a hypothetical exhibit is provided below.
The hypothetical exhibit is a medium-sized exhibit of 100 historical objects. A breakdown of the key activities involving a conservator is given, along with the estimated time a conservator might spend on each activity. A conservator would be involved, on average, for a total of 275 hours (34 days) in an exhibit of this size. (This figure does not include the conservation treatment of individual objects or the cost of creating exhibit mounts for objects on exhibition.)

1. Planning Meetings and Reviews:
The number of meetings and conferences that the conservation specialist should attend varies widely according to the needs of the exhibit project. On average, a conservator may attend 30% of the early exhibit planning meetings and 10% of the later sessions. For an exhibit project with a yearlong planning and design phase, meeting attendance should amount to approximately 15 meetings roughly three hours long. (45 hours).
Compiling information or materials requested by the team during meetings. (8 hours)
Review of exhibit plans and documents, including a written review, generally requires 6 hours. Allow for 3 reviews from the initial concept to the final plan. (18 hours). As deficiencies are addressed and alternative solutions to conservation concerns are worked out, additional planning and design time may be required; therefore contingency funding for additional consulting is a good idea.
2. Onsite Assessments:
Travel to collections sites is sometimes required so that the conservation specialist can assess the proposed exhibit objects. The budget should provide sufficiently for both time and travel costs. The amount of time necessary for assessing the proposed exhibit objects (100 items) is 20 hours. Note: forty to fifty objects can generally be assessed in a single day; however, this does not allow time for the development of conservation treatment proposals.
Travel to the exhibit site may also be required for the conservation specialist to assess potential conservation hazards in the proposed exhibition location and space. An onsite assessment takes one day. (8 hours). Appropriate environmental conditions can be provided only when potential risks are identified early in the exhibit planning process. Security and fire assessments may require experts to visit the site.
Writing assessment reports is time consuming: Findings must be recorded and conclusions and recommendations must also be developed. (24 hours).
Environmental monitoring data, ideally, can be provided to the exhibit team by museum staff. If this data is not available, the conservator may need to initiate a monitoring program or interview staff from other local institutions with similar environments. In either case, some conservator involvement will be necessary. (8 hours)
3. Conservation Requirements:
The conservator must describe the Conservation Requirements—the conditions necessary to safeguard the objects during exhibition. These criteria should be established early in the planning process so the exhibit team can budget for the appropriate level of protection. (16 hours)
4. Collections Management:
Collections care training. The conservator may provide training in collections care and object handling practices to exhibit team members and other museum staff who will have contact with exhibit objects (2 hours).
5. Object Replication:
Conservation time and funds may be required to replicate objects as an alternative to displaying original material. The conservator will work with the exhibit team to identify objects that require replication and should supervise the reproduction process. Two days (16 hours).
6. Conservation Strategy:
Consultation time between the conservation specialist and the exhibit team: The conservator will assist the exhibit team in selecting conservation strategies that will meet the objects’ Conservation Requirements. The conservation requirements will be fulfilled, for the most part, through the exhibit design; but other options such as building modifications and museum policies could also be considered. (8 hours)
Consultation time between the conservation specialist and the exhibit designer: The conservator will advise on the design strategies, such as the scope of response (whether, for example, to modify relative humidity throughout the entire exhibit building or throughout a room or at the scale of an exhibit case), and mitigation features (such as light controls and well-sealed exhibit cases) that will meet the objects’ Conservation Requirements. (16 hours)
Technical review of exhibit drawings requires that the conservator evaluate all conservation features and specifications that will be passed on to the exhibit’s fabricator. (Hours are covered under the proceeding planning section.)
7. Hazard Mitigation Design Features:
Exhibit lighting safeguards must be reviewed. These include filtration levels for ultraviolet and infrared radiation, blocking and screening of natural light sources, and controlled illumination levels for artificial light. In many instances, both fixtures and lamps will require mock-up and review. Two days (16 hours)
The exhibit’s proposed construction materials must be reviewed by the conservator to ensure that they are safe to use with exhibit objects. Testing of problematic materials and research into unknown materials is generally required. (16 hours)
Conservation-grade exhibit cases designed to serve as controlled microenvironments will cost more to design and produce and will require conservation consultation. One day (8 hours).
Archival framing designs will likely require conservation supervision and sufficient time to construct a mockup - one day (8 hours)
8. Mount Making:
• The overall design of exhibit object mounts and supports should be established by the designer and a qualified mount maker. The conservator will assist with problematic and highly vulnerable objects and review the overall design of mounts. (4 hours)

9. Adherence to Specifications:
The conservator should inspect exhibit structures to ensure that the fabricator has included the conservation features and has used the specified technology and appropriate construction materials. If design specifications are not followed exactly, conservation features such as exhibit cases may not function as intended. (8 hours)
10. Object Treatment Needs:
The majority of Objects will usually require some level of preparation (cleaning, stabilization, or repair), before they can be safely or effectively exhibited. Unstable objects undergoing active deterioration (such as surface flaking and corrosion) require time-consuming treatment by a conservator; others may require reassembly, reconstruction, or special preparation for exhibit on custom-designed supports. (Conservation treatment is not estimated here. Conservators under contract charge from $75-125 per hour.)
11. Exhibit Monitoring:
A system to monitor the exhibit’s climatic conditions (with particular focus on exhibit cases) should be planned and developed during production. (8 hours) The cost of the monitoring system depends on several variables, such as the type of system (electronic or mechanical) and whether data will be collected automatically or manually.

12. Exhibit object transit:
Transport of exhibit objects, which may be highly vulnerable or fragile, frequently requires consultation with a conservator. (4 hours) Packing and arranging for object shipment is generally the domain of the registrar, as is object tracking.
13. Installation and handling of objects:
• Object handling is restricted to certain staff, including the conservator, who supervises handling of the most fragile objects. (8 hours)
Exhibit object mount installation is generally completed by qualified mount makers but is supervised by the conservator. (16 hours) This activity often takes longer than expected and cannot be hurried; even when the mounts are prefabricated at an off-site workshop, the amount of onsite work is considerable.
14. Environmental monitoring and adjustment:
The conservator usually participates in final inspection and adjustments to the exhibit environment before objects are installed. This includes inspection of conservation features, exhibit climate, and lighting (12 hours)
15. Exhibit maintenance:
The exhibit Maintenance Manual should include information detailing the correct maintenance of conservation features. The conservator will generally contribute information to the document. (8 hours)
Museum staff will need training to operate and maintain the exhibit. This may include correct exhibit cleaning, lamp maintenance, and exhibit case access, as well as instruction concerning special security hardware or electronics. The conservator frequently provides such training once installation is completed. (4 hours)

What conservation-related items should be budgeted for in addition to conservation specialists?

The exhibit coordinator should be aware that some significant conservation-related activities are not usually covered in a typical conservation budget. These activities include:
• Conservation tasks performed by team members other than the conservator
• Conservation-related travel (to see objects, courier trips, visits to fabricators etc.)
• Conservation-related equipment
• Special exhibit case features for security and environmental control
• Exhibit object mounts
• Installation of the mounts for highly vulnerable objects
• Maintenance and replacement of conservation features
Provision should be made for these items in the general exhibit budget.
An important component of effective conservation that falls outside the conservation budget is precision in fabrication. For the hazard mitigation features—such as humidity controls and case seals—to function as designed, they must be correctly fabricated and installed.
Although the fabrication budget cannot be finalized until the exhibit design has been established in a final set of drawings, some rough estimates can be made:
• A well-sealed or control-ventilated case can be estimated to cost about 25% more than an unsealed case
• A case with specialized mitigation features, such as a humidity generator, can be estimated to cost over 100% more.
The cost of these conservation-related features should be built into the fabrication budget.