April 15, 2014     
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Conservation Center

The Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter

Collections Care 
In This Issue
Storage Facilities
Regional Workshops
Conferences and Meetings
2014 Course Schedule
Textiles and their Environment
Care of Basketry News
May 2014 Courses
Submissions and Comments
Upcoming Classes


May 5, 2014



MS226: Care of Furniture and Wood Artifacts  


MS250: Building and Maintaining an Engaged Nonprofit Board of Directors **NEW**

June 23, 2014
MS222: Care of Photographs
Preservation Guide 6: Matting and Framing
Preservation Guide 6: Matting and Framing
Preservation Guide 6: Matting and Framing
Author: the Historic New Orleans Collection. Preservation Guides by the Historic New Orleans Collection provide clear, in-depth collection care advice. Each guide has illustrative photographs and drawings.

Storage Facilities


Collections are stored in all manner of facilities: barns, basements, attics, closets, the second floor of historic houses and offsite storage facilities. Some storage areas share a building with other museum functions, such as exhibits or offices, while others share space with non-museum functions such as rental apartments, cafeterias or garages.


Ideal storage space has stable relative humidity and temperature, no dust nor fumes, light, pests, leaks nor fire hazards. It is easily accessible, and the collection is organized, well labeled and easy to retrieve. Finally, the space is expandable to fit the needs of a growing collection. OK, so the ideal never exists. Some museums get pretty close, but even the best have the occasional dripping sprinkler head, mouse incursion, or forgotten corner piled with artifacts. Storage improvement is a process. The Detroit Institute of Arts talks about "shifting up." As improvements are made to one space, every other space is improved a little as well. For example, buying premium cabinets frees up adequate metal shelving that will replace substandard wood shelving in another storage space. Using a planned approach, with an overall goal of ideal storage, these yearly advances contribute to the overall improvement of preservation.


Excerpt from MS202 Museum Storage Facilities and Furniture with instructor Lori Benson starting on May 5, 2014. Come learn more about planning your storage; determining the space you will need; and many other details about museum storage.


Lori Benson is an independent museum professional based in Maine. Ms. Benson has a B.A. in biology and a Masters of Library and Informational Science specializing in rare books and archives.  She has taught museum studies to undergraduates and given many talks and lectures on preservation, deaccessioning, project planning and moving.

Regional Workshops 

Where you can find some of our instructors this year:  

John Simmons

Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences 

  • "Integrated Pest Management for Cultural Institutions," 13 May 2014
Philadelphia History Museum
  • "Exhibitions for Cultural Institutions" (with Julianne Snider), 07 October 2014
School of Library and Information Science at Kent State University

On-line graduate workshop 07 April to 02 May 2014

  • "Museums and the Law"
Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania

Undergraduate course 20 January to 06 May 2014

  • "Museum Education" (with Julianne Snider)

Forthcoming publications:

  • "Foundations of Museum Studies: Evolving Systems of Knowledge" with Dr. Kiersten F. Latham
  • "Fluid Preservation: A Comprehensive Reference"
  • "Collection Care and Management" in "Museum Practice," edited by Conal McCarthy
Karin Hostetter

National Association for Interpretation 

  • May 6, 2014 1 - 2 pm (Mountain) webinar for National Association for Interpretation on some aspect on volunteer program management--specific topic still to be decided
  • Sept. 16, 2014 1 - 2 pm (Mountain) webinar for National Association for Interpretation on some aspect on volunteer program management--specific topic still to be decided

Steve Layne

Yale University, New Haven, CT 

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.  Certified Institutional Protection Specialist/Supervisor (CIPS) Basic Protection Training & Certification
  • Tuesday-Thursday, April 22-24, 2014, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. daily Certified Institutional Protection Instructor (CIPI) Certification


American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting, Seattle, WA 

  • Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 12:00 - 4:00 p.m.  Management of Aggressive Behavior (MOAB)
  • Thursday, May 22, 2014, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Certified Institutional Protection Manager (CIPM) Certification    

Conferences and Meetings


American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting

May 18-21, 2014, Seattle, WA  

Colorado-Wyoming Association of Museums Annual Meeting

May 8-10, 2014, Cody, WY


Society For the Preservation of Natural History Collections Annual Meeting

June 22-28, 2014, Cardiff, Wales, UK


Association of Midwest Museums Annual Meeting

July 14-17, 2014, St. Louis, MO


International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection

Annual Conference, Seminar, Exhibits & Certification Program
August 9-14, 2014,
Denver, CO


Greater Than the Sum of Our Parts, 2014 AASLH Annual Meeting

September 17-20, 2014, St. Paul, MN    


Mountain-Plains Museums Association Annual Meeting

September 28 - October 2, 2014, Aspen, CO


Western Museums Association Annual Meeting

October 5-8, 2014, Las Vegas, NV


Southeast Association of Museums Annual Meeting

October 20-22, 2014, Knoxville, TN


New England Association of Museums Annual Meeting

November 19-21, 2014, Cambridge, MA

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About Us

Welcome to the Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter from Northern States Conservation Center. The newsletter is designed to bring you timely and helpful content that is pertinent to situations we all encounter in our museum and archives work. Feel free to let us know what topics you would like to see featured in Collections Caretaker or even contribute an article.
2014 On-line Course Schedule Released

The full 2014 course schedule for museumclasses.org is available. Several new courses have been added to the schedule this year including Building and Maintaining an Engaged Nonprofit Board of Directors, Formative Evaluation, Museum Storage Techniques, Disaster Preparation and Recovery, and Museum Ethics.

Our popular course An Introduction to Collections Preservation will now be taught more frequently because we feel it is an important foundation for many of our Collections Management and Care courses.

There may be more courses added to the 2014 schedule in the next couple of months so come back and check.

Textiles and Their Environment

By Ann Coppinger

Textiles are perhaps the most fragile of all objects found in museum collections. They degrade quickly when subjected to poor environmental conditions, especially excessive light, fluctuating temperature and humidity, airborne pollution and biological pests. If these factors are monitored and controlled, generally it will prevent damage that may be costly or possibly untreatable.



All light exposure is harmful to textiles. It will cause fibers to break down and dyes to fade. Light damage is cumulative and irreversible, occurring progressively. Textiles will lose flexibility, becoming weak and brittle. They will initially begin to fracture along crease lines, and then break into fragments and eventually powder. For textiles made from cotton and linen, the degradation process will be accompanied by general yellowing and browning.


Since it is not reasonable to keep your textiles in the dark all the time, what you can do is limit the time, amount and type of light exposure. Textiles can be kept in the dark when galleries are closed and storage rooms are unoccupied. Windows in storage and galleries should be covered because natural light is variable and loaded with damaging ultraviolet radiation. Keep light levels for display at no more than 50 lux or 5 footcandles, always avoiding direct light on textiles.


Temperature and Humidity

These two environmental factors are interrelated. High air temperatures have a greater capacity to hold moisture while lower temperatures hold less moisture. This explains why in the summer the air may seem heavy or muggy, while in the winter static cling and fly-away hair are problematic. Fluctuations in temperature and humidity cause fibers to shrink and swell, thus weakening the textile. Textiles should be placed in a controlled environment with a temperature of 70° F + or - 5° (21°C + or - 3°C) and a relative humidity of 50 percent, plus or minus 5 percent. Textiles should not be stored in attics or basements where humidity and temperatures can be extreme. The optimum storage area is in a central room within a building with good air circulation. Temperature and humidity levels should be recorded and monitored with a recording hygrothermograph or datalogger in any area where the collection is kept, including both storage and display.


Airborne Pollution

Dust and other airborne atmospheric pollutants can settle on textiles and cause severe damage. Dusts contain fine, sharp particles that, if not removed, will eventually become embedded into textiles and abrade fibers. Dust contains mold spores, which under high temperature and humid conditions, will flourish and grow on textiles. Dust also provides nourishment for insects and other pests. Good housekeeping will serve to keep the level of airborne pollutants at a minimum.


Biological Pests

Insects, rodents, mold and mildew all view textiles not as wonderful objects but as excellent sources of nourishment and really comfortable homes. They will nest in or feed on textiles causing small and big areas of loss. Clothes moths and carpet beetles are attracted to protein fibers; silk, wool, fur and feathers. Silverfish feed on cellulose and starch found in cotton and linen textiles. Mold and mildew grow in warm, damp locations. Areas that contain collections should be monitored and inspected on a regular basis for infestations. An integrated pest management plan (IPM) should be collection's first line of defense.



It is important to understand what causes damage to textiles, but at the same time it might seem rather overwhelming to correct all problems at once. Remember that awareness of how to recognize problematic situations together with small changes can often result in damage prevention for your textile collection.


Excerpt from Care of Textiles course starting May 5. 2014  


Ann Coppinger runs the conservation department and teaches conservation at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She has a master's in museum studies specializing in costume and textile conservation from FIT. She is a former NEA master apprentice at the Textile Conservation Workshop. Ms. Coppinger previously worked for 22 years in fashion in New York City. She has degrees in both fashion design and pattern making from FIT. 

Care of Basketry News


Care of Basketry Instructor Sherry Doyal is based in London but her interest in basketry spans all areas. Here are some of her recent activities.


This April Dr. Nancy Odegaard of the Arizona State Museum and University of Arizona (also a Northern States Conservation Center museum classes on-line instructor) was in town. Nancy gave an illustrated lecture at the University College, London Institute for Archaeology. Nancy spoke about the ASM culturally comprehensive assemblage of basketry and cordage from the arid Southwest region (nearly 27,000 items). A Save America's Treasures grant in 2010 supported a condition survey, storage room improvements, and specialized storage furniture for the collection. Advances in conservation treatment from the ASM lab for basketry objects include new analytical techniques and identification of indigenous repairs; new treatment techniques using CO2-snow for cleaning (http://www.co2clean.com/ ); calibration and identification methods using X-ray and Xeroradiograph documentation; and new procedures for reversal of failing restorations, and stabilization of degraded pitched surfaces.   The lab continues to seek tribal consultations to address cultural concerns and inform the development of guidelines regarding access, handling, and preservation of fibre-based objects (some of which come from mortuary contexts). ASM is working on an extensive review of the conservation literature related to the products used in the stabilization of basketry.   An informal reception which followed Nancy's talk was a very happy occasion reuniting colleagues and Nancy's former interns now based in the UK.     


To contrast with the dry site basketry of the arid Southwestern US Sherry has been organizing a panel meeting late in April at the invitation Curator Fiona Pitt of Plymouth City Museums of conservators, basket makers and archaeologists to look at an exciting Bronze age basket find from Dartmoor National Park Devon, England (http://www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/aboutus/news/au-geninterestnews/prehistburial).  This basket is of coiled lime bast cordage and has been conserved by Helen Williams at Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham and will part of an exhibition later this year. The panel is meeting to look at replication of the basket for the displays. Sherry has consulted with Dr. Susanna Harris of University College London who very generously shared her knowledge of lime bast processing (http://forestry.oxfordjournals.org/content/78/1/65.abstract). Sherry will attend a workshop to gain practical experience of the process in May (for more information on the workshop go to http://www.woodlandsurvivalcrafts.com/bushcraft-courses/).


To increase interest in contemporary basketry Sherry is organizing a display of bicycle baskets by members of the Basketmakers' Association in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire for June/July of this year (for more information on the association go to http://www.basketassoc.org/index.php). Stages of the sporting Tour de France will take place in England this year with 48 thousand cycle enthusiasts predicted to arrive in Yorkshire. This will be a great opportunity to showcase the breadth of basket making with members providing both traditional and modern versions. Sherry called in on the Spring School run by the Basketmakers' Association in the City of York this week to collect baskets from makers for this exhibit.

Hairy biker's basket by Cumbrian maker and grower Susan Pettman in willow "Green Dicks" based on an Irish creel.
Edinburgh maker Anna Liebmann Coldham in organic willow "Bleu" and "Brittany Green" varieties.

To learn more about baskets and their care join Sherry for the Care of Baskets course starting May 5, 2014.


Sherry Doyal is head of the organic artefacts conservation section at the British Museum. She now specializes in conservation of botanic materials. Sherry has previous experience of private practice conservation serving regional historic houses, scientific botany collections (herbaria) and small museums. Her employment history also includes large museums (Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY and Victoria and Albert Museum, London). Sherry received a conservation and restoration studies certificate with distinction from Lincoln College of Art in 1980 and a post graduate certificate in upholstery conservation from the Textile Conservation Centre, Hampton Court Palace in 1984. Sherry received a further and adult education teachers' certificate from Exeter College in 1998 and a diploma in design and craft (constructed textiles) in the context of basketry from City Literacy College, London in 2008. In her spare time she is a maker and exhibitor of contemporary basketry works.

May 2014 Courses


MS109: Museum Management

Instructor: Sue Near

May 5 - Jun 13, 2014


Sound business practices are critical for a museum to fulfill its mission. Sounds like vegetables, right? Museum Management is complex. A museum exists to preserve collections and educate, but it is also an institution that must employ sound business practices while being accountable to the public as a non-profit organization. Instructor Sue Near teaches participants how to administer a successful museum efficiently and effectively. Participants will engage in discussions about the changing cultural climate and its effect on museum operations.


MS202: Museum Storage Facilities and Furniture

Instructor: Lori Benson

May 5 - May 30, 2014


The course will start with a refresher on the agents of deterioration and environmental issues to assure that the students have a common base to begin. After this introduction, topics include determining storage and defining space, architectural design considerations and issues such as lighting, security and planning. We will discuss general information about storage furniture types and storage materials, how to modify existing cabinets and information on homemade storage systems. The last section includes specific information from a variety of vendors, specifics on writing a Request for Proposal (RFP), and what to consider when making a decision on a furniture type and vendor. The instructor will add readings and other information depending upon the students and their individual institutional problems and concerns.


MS212: Care of Textiles

Instructor: Ann Coppinger

May 5 - May 30, 2014


Caring for textiles demands an understanding of how and why they deteriorate. This course offers a simplified explanation of the origin and structure of textile fibers as well as the finished textile object; be it either a piece of whole cloth or a finished garment. Care of Textiles teaches students to identify fibers, fabric structures and finishes, write condition reports, and understand the agents of deterioration that are harmful to various fabrics both in storage on exhibit. Topics include preparing textiles for storage and exhibit, the use of archival materials with textiles, and three dimensional supports.


MS225: Care of Baskets

Instructor: Sherry Doyal 

May 5 - Jun 13, 2014


Baskets are an important part of nearly every world culture. Caring for baskets requires an understanding of why and how they deteriorate. Care of Baskets provides a simplified explanation of the chemistry and structure of basketry materials. Starting with an overview of the history and function of baskets and how they are made, Care of Baskets will cover guidelines for handling, labeling, exhibiting and storing baskets, including condition assessments and an introduction to integrated pest management. An overview of treatments used on baskets and how appropriate they are for the long-term preservation of the basket will help students make care decisions when consulting with conservators.


MS233: Matting and Framing

Instructor: Susan Duhl

May 5 - May 30, 2014


Matting and Framing teaches the materials and techniques of conservation-quality framing. For display, matting and framing provides both protective and aesthetic contributions to art on paper. Students will learn about different types of enclosures, different mat styles and cutting methods, the pros and cons of different backing boards and glazing, and different methods of attaching items to a mat, some of which do not involve adhering hinges to art on paper. Lectures, illustrations, product resources, and additional informational references will be provided.


MS011: Gallery Guides (short course)

Instructor: Karin Hostetter

May 12 - May 16, 2014


Self-guided brochures, exhibit labels, docent led tours, guest speakers, and audio tours are only a few of the methods available to guide visitors through an exhibit. Explore the strengths and challenges of many different methods and garner resources for further information. Learn how to determine which method works best with which exhibits and how to provide variety to enhance the visitor experience.

Submissions and Comments


How to submit an article or upcoming workshops for inclusion in the Newsletter:  

If you would like to submit an article, notice of an organizational meeting or upcoming workshop for an upcoming Collections Caretaker Newsletter, send your submission to peggy@collectioncare.org.  


We are always looking for contributions to this newsletter. Submission deadline is the 10th of each month. 


Have a comment or suggestion?   


Send it to peggy@collectioncare.org

Northern States Conservation Center (NSCC) provides training, collection care, preservation and conservation treatment services. NSCC offers online museum studies classes at www.museumclasses.org in Collections Management & Care, Museum Administration & Management, Exhibit Practices and Museum Facilities Management.


Helen Alten, Director

Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager