Northern States Conservation Center

Providing collection care, preservation and conservation treatment services to collectors and collecting institutions.


Collections Caretaker

Collections Caretaker (January 15, 2014)
January 15, 2014
Northern States Conservation CenterNorthern States
Conservation Center

The Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter

Legal Issues and Education
In This Issue
Regional Workshops
Conferences and Meetings
Submissions and Comments
2014 Course Schedule
Are You Taking Advantage of All the Educational Opportunities Open to Your Museum?
Legal Issues in Collection Management
Visit to Hawaii
February 2014 Courses
Upcoming Classes
February 3, 2014


MS208: Applying Numbers to Collection Objects


MS213: Museum Artifacts: How they were made and how they deteriorate


MS227: Care of Paintings


MS236: Education in Museums    


MS238: Design and Construction of Exhibit Mounts


MS266: Legal Issues in Collection Management


February 10, 2014


MS002: Collection Protection - Are You Prepared?   


MS008: Buy In: Getting All of Staff to Support Preservation


March 3, 2014


MS101: Introduction to Museums


MS108: Fundamentals of Museum Volunteer Programs


MS205/6: Disaster Plan Research and Writing


MS215: Care of Archaeological Artifacts from the Field to the Lab


MS224: Care of Leather and Skin Materials


MS234: Archives Management


MS303: Found in the Collection: Orphans, Old Loans and Abandoned Property


March 10, 2014


MS010: Condition Assessments (short course)

Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium Scholarship  


The Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium (ICPC) offers two reimbursement scholarships up to $500 each that may be used for an on-line course with Northern States Conservation Center. Deadline for submittal is March 1. For more information visit the ICPC website,  

A Legal Primer on Managing Museum Collections, Third Edition by Marie C. Malaro, Ildiko Pogany DeAngelis 
A Legal Primer on Managing Collections
Hailed when it was first published in 1985 as the bible of U.S. collections management, A Legal Primer on Managing Museum Collections offers the only comprehensive discussion of the legal questions faced by museums regarding collections. This revised and expanded third edition addresses the many legal developments--including a comprehensive discussion of stolen art and the international movement of cultural property, recent developments in copyright, and the effects of burgeoning electronic uses--that have occurred during the past twenty-five years. An authoritative, go-to book for any museum professional, Legal Primer offers detailed explanations of the law, suggestions for preventing legal problems, and numerous case studies of lawsuits involving museum collections".

Regional Workshops 

Where you can find some of our instructors this year:  

Susan Duhl   

  • March 2014 (date to be determined)  Guidelines for Disaster Responders in Cultural Institutions, Delaware Disaster Assistance Team

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"

On-line graduate classes 13 January to 05 April, 2014

  • "Museum Collections"
  • "Foundations of Museum Studies"

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 

  • Jan. 21, 2014 1 - 2 pm (Mountain) webinar for National Association for Interpretation on Overview of Volunteer Program Management
  • Mar 18, 2014 1 - 2 pm (Mountain) webinar for National Association for Interpretation on evaluation for front line interpreters
  • 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

Conferences and Meetings


Renewal in the Renaissance City

Alabama Museums Association Annual Meeting
February 10-11, 2014, Florence, AL


American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting

May 18-21, 2014, Seattle, WA  

March 5-7, 2014, Napa, CA


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


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

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  


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

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Northern States Conservation Center

Online courses in museum studies

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

We have just released the 2014 course schedule for Several new courses have been added to the schedule this year including 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.

Are You Taking Advantage of All the Educational Opportunities Open to Your Museum?

By Karin Hostetter 


Everyone is Part of the Education Department


New knowledge constantly bombards every one of us. Everything which enters any of our senses is feeding information to our brains and changing what we think and understand. Is your museum taking advantage of this?


When most people think of "museum education," they think of the formal classes, special programs, and grand exhibits which they design for groups of visitors. While these certainly comprise a large portion of time and resources in educational endeavors, they might not have the farthest reach or leave the most lasting understanding. Many educational opportunities are overlooked and yet are available to more people and on a more frequent basis. Here are some examples:


Membership Brochure: Typically, these feature information on costs and benefits, but add one quick fact with each membership level about how much it takes to feed a specific animal for a year, to offer a field trip for one school classroom of students, or to curate one piece of art and potential members feel good about joining and might join at a higher level, not to mention they learned something in the process.


Gift Shops: Take a step back and look at the overall view of the items the way a visitor sees it. Do you see inexpensive items geared to getting a child to say "buy this" or items unrelated to the mission and exhibits of the museum? While these might be merchandising techniques, they also leave an educational message of "all you want from me is my money." Be sure that what is sold in a gift shop is quality, even if inexpensive, and supports other efforts of the museum.


Web page: Wow, so many opportunities exist here. Can you have a page which features an item in the collections which is never on exhibit and change the featured object monthly? What about a short piece each month from a staff member/curator on current research or special museum related interests? If you have a special exhibit on view, you can supplement the information of the exhibit text or guided tours by having one or a series of mini essays on different related topics of the exhibit and background information.


Donor letters: Besides saying thanks for the money, a little "did you know" fact at the end about some item in collection can be fun. The ideas mentioned above associated with membership also work here. After a training I did for all staff at a zoo, the Director of Development came to me and said she totally redid her donor letter and immediately received calls back from people stating they liked the informative thank-you letter. She had never received a "thank-you" for her "thank-you" before.


Class descriptions: These are generally written to peak interest and create a bit of mystery. Including one fun fact adds an element of education even if people do not sign up for the class. For example, "Did you know 75% of the earth is covered with water? Come explore the watery world at our museum. Look for animals living in water and find out how water gets into our homes." Or "Did you know that cream at room temperature churns into butter better than cream out of the refrigerator? Join us for a class on pioneer cooking with recipes, tasting, and a lunch you cook yourselves on our wood burning stove."


Take a close look at all the ways you reach out to the public. Read the brochures carefully, explore the entire website, examine donor letters. Where can you enrich your message to recipients by adding a small educational tidbit?


Learn more from Karin's Education in Museums course starting February 3, 2014.


Karin Hostetter has over thirty years experience with museum education. With a career that includes natural history museums, cultural history museums (including first person interpretation), nature centers, and zoos, Ms. Hostetter is experienced in interpretive writing, program and curriculum development, and staff and volunteer training. Ms. Hostetter is owner of Interpret This, a consulting company specializing in interpretive writing, program and curriculum development, and volunteer program management. When she is not consulting with other museums, she likes to volunteer and contract teach at them with a special love for preschool and family programs.

Legal Issues in Collection Management
By John Simmons  

Most museums are public institutions, which hold their collections in trust for the public, and because museums are public institutions, accountability and transparency are critical. If the public can't trust the people who work in the museum, the relationship breaks down. Sometimes, however, good museums do go bad (or more accurately, sometimes people working in good museums go bad). What should you do if someone at the museum you work in does something illegal? For example, what if a curator imports an object illegally, or the director is caught siphoning off funds for personal use, or the intern is found to be stealing objects from collections storage?

he purpose of this course is not to make you an expert in museum law
but rather to give you an understanding of the most important legal issues that you may run into while managing museum collections. Many of the laws and regulations that affect the way collections are managed are those that apply to most other public or non-profit institutions, such as those that govern how employees are treated, or institutional liability for failing to address hazards. Because in just four weeks we can't discuss all of the legal issues encountered in museum work, the course focuses on the most important, most common, and most problematic issues while providing you with information to help you (and your institution) avoid legal trouble. As the late Stephen E. Weil (who was both a lawyer and museum director), once wrote, "Our laws are too complex, and the consequences of misunderstanding them too grave, to make it thinkable that the legal aspects of museum management should be based on anything less than the best available professional advice" (From "Vincible Ignorance: Museums and the Law," pages 133-142 in Beauty and the Beasts, 1983).

Learn more from John's Legal Issues in Collection Management starting February 3, 2014. 


John E. Simmons runs Museologica, an independent consulting company, and serves as Adjunct Curator of Collections at the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum and Art Gallery at Pennsylvania State University. He has a B.S. in Systematics and Ecology and a Master's degree in Historical Administration and Museum Studies. Simmons began his professional career as a zoo keeper, then worked as collections manager at the California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of the University of Kansas, where he also served as Director of the Museum Studies Program until 2007. He consults, teaches, and does field work in the US, Latin America and Asia. For more information visit his web site MUSEOLOGICA.

Visit to Hawaii

By Brad Bredehoft


Aloha, in late November and early December I had the good fortune to visit three of the Hawaiian Islands, Maui, the Big Island and Oahu. While the trip was a vacation I did manage to visit a few cultural institutions while I was there.


On Maui I stopped to visit the Bailey House museum in Wailuku ( The site of the former girls missionary school, the Bailey house records and displays much of the history of the 1800's after missionaries came to Maui to educate the native Hawaiians. I saw several paintings done by Edward Bailey. Interesting to see how Hawaii looked back in the 1800s. There was a nice display of the Kingdom of Hawai'i Monarchy quilts in the sitting room. Also in the sitting room was a beautiful Koa wood table that was made for President Grant, but he could not accept it since the law at the time prevented Presidents from accepting gifts from foreign countries. With help from their local utility the Bailey House has replaced most of their lights with LEDs and changed low traffic rooms to on demand lighting. Both are effective ways to reduce light damage to sensitive objects like paintings and textiles.


On the Big Island I had hoped to meet museumclasses student Tracy Lacqua at Volcanoes National Park (, but she was off island for the Thanksgiving Holiday so I was treated to a behind the scenes tour of the collections by her colleagues Emily Pronovost and Kristi Ausfresser. Wow, do they have some interesting collections. I learned that Pele's Tears are small bits of molten lava that cools quickly and solidifies into glass particles shaped like spheres or tear drops. I saw an impressive original paintings collection dating back to the Volcano School of painting. The original art is all in very nice storage hung on screens that slide out, while reproductions adorn the walls of the facilities. They just recently had a collection assessment performed by staff from Harper's Ferry, the Conservation arm of the National Park Service. The park staff is working on improving conditions in storage that has no climate control and is in the middle of a tropical rainforest. They are currently working on the Archive of over 360,000 objects consisting of park records, photographs, slides, maps, drawings, and plans. Staff and budget cuts are making storage improvement progress slower.  


Not one to miss a National Park, I also visited Pu'uhonua Honaunau National Park (, also known as The Place of Refuge. "Imagine you had just broken the sacred laws, the Kapu, and the only punishment was death.  Your only chance of survival is to elude your pursuers and reach the Pu'uhonua, a place of refuge.  The Pu'uhonua protected the kapu breaker, civilians during the time of war and the defeated warriors.  No harm could come to those who reached the boundaries of the place of refuge." (from the Park's website) They had some very interesting live cultural demonstrations going on while I was there and a nice Audio Walking Tour of the Park with your own cell phone (Verizon seems to have the best coverage currently on the island).


When I arrived on O'ahu I was greeted with a shell Lei by conservator Linda Hee who took me to a wonderful local Thai restaurant and then to the Bishop Museum ( At the Bishop I met museumclasses student Betty Lou Kam, who is Director of Cultural Collections at the Bishop. I was treated to a behind the scenes tour of their conservation lab and collections storage. I saw many innovative storage solutions that staff and volunteers at the Bishop have constructed including this really nice and space efficient method for storing kapa design stamps. My timing was good as the newly renovated Pacific Hall (formerly the Polynesian Hall) had opened in September. I was also able to visit the Hawaiian Hall which was renovated 4 years earlier. 

Kapa Stamp Storage at the Bishop Museum
Kapa Stamp storage at the Bishop Museum, Honolulu, HI 

The next day I visited the only Royal Palace in the USA, 'Iolani Palace ( where museumclasses student Heather Diamond gave me a tour of the galleries and storage. It was interesting to hear how over time they have been able to find many pieces that were once in the palace, but had been lost during the years it was used as the Government headquarters for the Provisional Government, Republic, Territory and State of Hawai'i. The Palace restoration has included restoring the structure, finding objects that had been lost and recreating fabrics and finishes.


Mahalo to all my wonderful hosts who made my time in Hawai'i rewarding and unforgettable.


Brad Bredehoft is General Manager of Northern States Conservation Center. He has been running the product operations since 2005 and instructional program since 2010. Prior to Northern States Brad spent 4 years at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Brad has experience in course building, site administration, web development, exhibition packing, object transport and construction of exhibit display mounts for ethnographic and natural history collections.

February 2014 Classes 


MS208: Applying Numbers to Collection Objects: Materials and Methods of Object Numbering
Instructor: Gretchen Anderson 

February 3 - 28, 2014


Applying Numbers to Collection Objects covers the materials and methods of object numbering: registration, handling, labeling and marking, number placement, documentation, health and safety, transponders and barcodes, surface marks, inks, paints and barrier coats. Each participant receives a Northern States Conservation Center collections labeling kit and performs experiments using its contents. Participants learn to determine what pen, ink, barrier coat or tag is appropriate for each object and storage or display situation.

MS213: Museum Artifacts: How they were made and how they deteriorate
Instructor: Helen Alten

February 3 - March 14, 2014


Every museum object is unique, but items made of similar materials share characteristics. Museum Artifacts gives participants an understanding of the materials and processes used to make objects - knowledge that better prepares them to decide how to care for their collections. Participants study two objects that represent all materials found in our museums. Through an in-depth analysis of their components, participants explore all possible objects found in any museum.


MS227: Care of Paintings

Instructor: Victoria Montana Ryan
February 3 - March 14, 2014  


Caring for paintings requires some knowledge of the component structure of paintings and the reaction of those components to both natural and man-made environments. This course looks at the painting structure, the effects of damaging environments, and proposes simple steps for basic care. Topics include the structure of paintings, proper condition reporting with standard damage vocabulary, and basic care and handling including environments, storage, and transport. The course is intended to help those entrusted with the care of paintings in any environment.


MS236: Education in Museums
Instructor: Karin Hostetter
February 3 - 28, 2014 


The world of museum education is as varied as the imagination. From school field trips to online blogs, from 2-year-olds to senior citizens, and from formal programs to volunteering, it is all part of the educational delivery system of a museum. In Education in Museums, survey the education programs offered at your site. Determine what exhibits and collections need better representation through education. Develop a long term plan of education program development for your site that you can use to improve services to your community.


MS238: Design and Construction of Exhibit Mounts
Instructor: Tom Bennett
February 3 - March 14, 2014 


Sprucing up your exhibits with safe, effective, inexpensive mounts can be easier and more fun than you thought. With a few tools, good technique and a bit of practice, you will be well on the way to presenting your objects in their most interesting light, with an eye on long-term safety and security. Design and Construction of Exhibit Mounts presents the basics of mount making for the small to medium-sized museum including tools, techniques and materials. Be prepared to construct mounts during the course. Students will be sent a list of materials and tools to acquire before the course commences. Come along and exercise your creative side while doing the collection a world of good.


MS266: Legal Issues in Collection Management
Instructor: John Simmons
February 3 - 28, 2014   


In this course we will examine the most significant laws and regulations that affect collections management, including the legal organization of museums, responsibilities of governing boards, collections care, loans and gifts, international regulations, intellectual property, cultural appropriation, and freedom of expression.


MS002: Collection Protection - Are you Prepared? (short course)
Instructor: Terri Schindel
February 10 - 14, 2014 


Disaster planning is overwhelming. Where do you start? Talk to Terri about how to get going. Use her checklist to determine your level of preparedness. What do you already have in place? Are you somewhat prepared? What can you do next? Help clarify your current state of readiness and develop future steps to improve it.


MS008: Buy-In: Getting All of the Staff to Support Preservation (short course)
Instructor: Helen Alten
February 10 - 14, 2014


To get anything done in your museum, you often need to get other staff to support the idea. All too often, preservation is left to one or two staff members and others believe it doesn't apply to them. For example, it is hard to successfully implement a pest management plan without full staff support. Everyone must buy into the notion of preservation. But how? Readings will introduce some ideas and participants in this course will brainstorm with Helen about what works, what might work - and what doesn't.

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


Helen Alten, Director

Brad Bredehoft, Sales and Technology Manager

Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager 

P.O. Box 8081, St. Paul, MN 55108   Phone: (651) 659-9420

© 2002 Northern States Conservation Center

Updated 24 January 2012