Northern States Conservation Center

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

Collections Caretaker

Collections Caretaker (January 23, 2010)
Providing training, collection care, preservation and conservation treatment services.


Learn to care for paintings or baskets

Two new collection care classes start on February 1. Caring for Paintings begins with the structure of paintings, how they deteriorate and how staff can halt or slow that deterioration. Extensive terms sheets and damage images and descriptions help the caretakers of art collections to better determine what is happening to their precious works. The course concludes with practical storage and exhibit advice to increase the lifespan of each painting. Instructor Victoria Montana Ryan is a former Assistant Professor for the Conservation of Paintings at Queen's University Kingston, Ontario and former adjunct faculty member at the University of Denver where she was conservator of paintings at the Rocky Mountain Conservation Center for over a decade.

Caring for 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 covers 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 helps students make care decisions when consulting with conservators. Students will become expert in identifying the three basic basket structures. Knowledge of basket making materials, seen from a microscopic and a macroscopic view, help caretakers determine care strategies.

Museum Artifacts, one of our core collections courses, 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. In this overview course, participants learn how all possible objects found in any museum are made and how that affects their longevity. This is the perfect course to take before taking a specific "care of" course.

Check out for the full list of 2010 classes!

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In This Issue:

Care of Paintings and Baskets: Two new online courses

Buy-In: Getting other staff to support preservation

February Classes

Starting February 1, 2010:

  • MS107: Introduction to Museum Security
  • MS235: Scripting the Exhibition
  • MS227: Care of Paintings **NEW**
  • MS225: Care of Baskets **NEW**
  • MS303: Found in the Collection: Orphans, Old Loans and Abandoned Property
  • MS213: Museum Artifacts: How they were made and how they deteriorate
  • MS209: Collections Management Policies for Museums and Related Institutions

Starting February 8, 2010:

  • MS001: The Problem with Plastics

Check out http://www.museu for the full list of 2010 classes!

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Buy-In: Getting All of the Staff to Support Preservation

It is the action and not the fruit of the action that matters. You must do what is right. Maybe it is not in your power, not in your time that fruits will be borne. However this does not mean that you must cease doing what is right. You may never know the result of your action but if you do nothing, there will not be any result at all.
- Mahatma Gandhi

When we talk about staff buy-in for preservation, we are talking about creating change in a culture – the culture of our museum. How do we create change in any culture? How do we get people to change their ideas and perceptions? How do we build consensus within our institution that preservation is a priority for all?

In Japan, individual self-assertion in almost any form is rigorously discouraged. "The nail that sticks up gets pounded down," says one of the most famous of Japanese proverbs. How many of those who propose preservation activities to our museum feel like a pounded nail?

The process of making changes and achieving consensus in Japan is called nemawashi. The term comes from bonsai culture, in which, whenever a miniature tree is repotted, its roots are carefully pruned and positioned in such a way as to determine the tree's future shape. In the human context, nemawashi involves a cautious feeling-out of all the people legitimately concerned with an issue, a highly tentative process in which no firm stands are openly taken and argument is implicit rather than explicit. The process of nemawashi describes how junior people build consensus by developing a proposal and circulating it broadly (“trial balloons”). In the nemawashi process many people give their input and this generates consensus. By the time the formal proposal comes up for a high-level approval the decision is already made. Agreements have been reached and the final meeting is a formality. From a Japanese point of view, the overriding advantage of this indirect approach is that it all but rules out the possibility of direct personal conflicts. Westerners instinctively dismiss nemawashi as impossibly clumsy and ineffectual -- and it can be tedious and time-consuming. However, nemawashi "gets everyone on board," it ensures that once a course of action has been agreed upon, it can be executed rapidly and with a minimum of the foot-dragging and intramural sniping that often impedes the progress of Western institutions.

Organizational change takes an organized approach. Even a planned approach. It is a slow process that takes time. You will not create a full-fledged preservation program in your museum in a few months, or possibly even a few years – no matter how much you see that it needs one. You, as an individual, must gather allies and data. You must have a plan, and you need to start small. A small prototype project that is successful will win you more allies. Bringing preservation into everyone’s perception is as challenging as changing your museum into a green, or sustainable, institution. It is a process that takes time, and continual commitment.

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Featured Products

This month we are offering free products if you sign up for one of two online classes:

Sign up for the March course MS205/6: Disaster Plan Research and Writing and receive a free flashlight with hand generator.Power the flashlight by squeezing a grip to generate electricity. There are no batteries. It guarantees light anywhere at anytime with just a squeeze. It is a good addition to a disaster kit.

Sign up for the March course MS210: Integrated Pest Management for Museums, Libraries and Archives and receive a free yellow sticky trap package. Yellow Sticky Traps, known as blunder traps, monitor areas for insect infestations. Put them near insect-susceptible collections and examine them monthly to see if you have small visitors.

March Grant Deadline

The 2010 IMLS 21st Century Museum Professionals grant deadline is March 15, 2010. Northern States Conservation Center will work with regional organizations who would like to write training grants that include online workshops for their constituents.

Online Courses for Your Constituents

This year we are offering online courses for NATHPO and the Alaska State Museums. Talk to us if you would like to have a course available for a number of people in your region or museum. We are willing to work with you for creative options that help you provide better service to your constituents.

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

© 2002 Northern States Conservation Center

Updated 11 May 2002