Guideline 1.4

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Guideline 1.4:
All conservation-related plans, requirements, and information are communicated accurately and effectively.
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There should be no room for misunderstanding or ambiguity when conservation concerns and requirements are communicated between the different team members and other relevant museum personnel working on an exhibit.

Why is it essential to establish clear methods of communication?

Successfully integrating conservation into an exhibit requires decisions to be communicated unchanged along many links in a chain. Many museum personnel and exhibit contractors may be involved in carrying out a conservation plan, ranging from the curator to the designer to the exhibit fabricator to the housekeeping staff. And the strategies for mitigating the threats to exhibit objects may need to be implemented according to precise requirements. An exhibit case, for example, may require specific construction techniques and materials in order to function effectively. During the exhibit, the exhibit’s conservation features must also be maintained correctly. And the health of fragile objects could depend upon being rotated off display for specific lengths of time.
The number of personnel involved and the amount of detail required allow more opportunities for error as conservation strategies are implemented. For this reason it is particularly important to record all discussions concerning conservation and to communicate conservation decisions in clear and unambiguous terms through written documents and drawings.

Which exhibit documents should be used to communicate conservation issues and decisions?

Meeting Agendas should indicate when conservation-related matters will be discussed so that the appropriate team members can be on hand to evaluate the impact of any decisions being considered.
Written follow-ups to meetings should document any discussion of conservation concerns during the meeting. Similarly, all discussion of preservation strategies and solutions should be documented. The follow-up should be circulated to all exhibit team members. Working in this manner avoids having to revisit the same issues during future meetings.
Schedules and budgets that involve conservation and the collections affect the entire team and therefore must be discussed and confirmed and then identified on the record for all exhibit team members.
Conservation Assessments. Specific conservation documents such as surveys and assessments of exhibit objects and display areas can be summarized; the full text can be made available to team members upon request.
Reviews of planning documents and drawings, such as the concept, schematic or final plans, should include comments related to conservation and should be viewed by the entire exhibit team and relevant field reviewers. This ensures that everyone on the team will be aware of any modifications made to exhibit plans to accommodate conservation concerns.
Exhibit Conservation Requirements. The exhibit conservator should provide a written description of the exhibit conservation requirements (the specific conditions that will be necessary to preserve objects while on display). These requirements should be circulated, even in summary form, to all exhibit team members.
Final exhibit planning documents and drawings should be used to officially communicate the conservation features and their specifications either as “schedules” or as call-outs in detail drawings.
Construction drawings for exhibit structures, furniture, and lighting should be used to communicate all conservation-related requirements to the fabricator. (These should include exact measurements and tolerances, the products and materials to be used, and when necessary, the specific application techniques for materials and coatings.)
Maintenance manual should include clear instructions for the correct maintenance of all conservation features and equipment.

How to communicate conservation features in explicit and consistent language

Provide precise construction specifications when fabrication details are communicated to the production workers. For example, the designer must supply specific descriptions when referring to such items as exhibit case construction, including: measurements, tolerances, surface coatings, isolation barriers and paints, lamps and lighting system installation, and exhibit mount installation.
Specify products and materials. The designer should supply not only a product’s name, but should also describe what type of material or chemical it is, as well as specifying the recommended manufacturers. Instructions for special applications should also be included. Acceptable substitutes should also be identified.
Attach exhibit schedules (lists) and specification sheets to the final drawing and bid package to effectively communicate key conservation information. Conservation application methods are often unconventional or unfamiliar to fabricators.