July 15, 2014     
Northern States Conservation CenterNorthern States
Conservation Center

The Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter

Preservation and Numbering

In This Issue
Regional Workshops
Conferences and Meetings
Submissions and Comments
Oversoming Resistance: Getting Stff Buy-in/Overcoming Staff Fears
Numbering Museum Objects
August 2014 Courses
Upcoming Classes

August 4, 2014


MS101: Introduction to Museums  

MS 208: Applying Numbers to Collection Objects 


MS236: Education in Museums  


August 11, 2014


MS002: Collection Protection - Are you Prepared?   


August 18, 2014


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


September 1, 2014


MS214: Collection Management Databases    


MS204: Materials for Storage and Display   


MS242: Museum Microclimates                                

MS223: Care of Metals                                              

MS243: Making Museum Quality Mannequins    


MS205/6: Disaster Plan Research and Writing          


September 8, 2018

MS010: Condition Assessments Short Course

Starting Right: A Basic Guide To Museum Planning 

Starting Right: A Basic Guide to Museum Planning

Authors: Gerald George and Cindy Sherrell-Leo. Economic and cultural issues that no one contemplated facing 50 years ago are critical to the planning process for today's successful museum. This new edition of Starting Right, revised from the first edition by Gerald George and Cindy Sherrell-Leo, still provides sound guidance in a handbook designed to explain the basics of museum planning in an evening's reading but it has been fully revised and updated to address the current issues facing new museums. Here in straightforward language you will find out what a museum is--philosophically and historically--some pros and cons of establishing your museum, up-to-date resource lists, and good basic advice on all aspects of museums from the choice of a building through collections care, registration, exhibitions, conservation, staffing, financial management, and fund raising.


Starting Right: A Basic Guide to Museum Planning  



Museum Administration an Introduction

Museum Administration an Introduction

Wondering what a museum director actually does? About to start your first director's job? Looking for guidance in starting up a museum or working with a museum director? Hugh Genoways and Lynne Ireland have taken the mystery out and put common sense and good guidance in. Learn about everything from budgets and strategic planning to human resources and facilities management to collections and programming. Genoways and Ireland also help you tackle legal documents, legal and ethical issues, and challenges for the modern museum. Case studies and exercises throughout help you review and practice what you are learning, and their extensive references will be a welcome resource.

Museum Administration an Introduction



Regional Workshops 
Where you can find some of our instructors this year: 
John Simmons
Philadelphia History Museum
  • "Exhibitions for Cultural Institutions" (with Julianne Snider), 07 October 2014

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

  • Volunteers in Special Niches, Sept. 16, 2014, 1 - 2 pm (Mountain) a webinar for the National Association for Interpretation on how to recruit, train and reward volunteers. 

Steve Layne 

American Association for State & Local History, St Paul, MN   
  • Special Events Security Friday, September 19, 2014, 1:00 - 5:00 p.m. 
Western Museums Association, Las Vegas, NV
  • We Don't Have Uniformed Security Staff - How Can We Be Safe?, Sunday, October 5, 2014, 1:00 - 5:00 p.m.  Hosted by the Hispanic Museum of Nevada 

International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions, Orlando, FL   

  • Your Personal Safety, Monday, November 17, 2014, 9:00 - 10:15 a.m.
  • Emergency Operations Planning, Monday, November 17, 2014, 10:30 - 11:45 a.m. 

Conferences and Meetings


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


National Association of Interpretation Annual Meeting

November 18-22, 2014, Denver, CO 

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

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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.

Overcoming Resistance: Getting Staff Buy-in/Overcoming Staff Fears

By Helen Alten


If you are the director, or a section manager, convincing staff under you to improve preservation procedures and activities may be the toughest part of introducing preservation principles to an organization -- overcoming staff fears and getting buy-in for the concept. Here are some ideas.


Start by talking with appropriate staff members and volunteers about preservation at your organization, and why different staff members and volunteers want, or don't want, to do the preservation activity. List the roadblocks to your proposal and come up with answers that make sense. Here is where your team helps. They can help you list the roadblocks AND help come up with answers that make sense.


Your sources may report back that they feel that the other staff or volunteers aren't "ready" or are uneasy about the whole idea of the preservation activity. This feeling of "unreadiness" can come from a variety of issues:

  • Staff members are still getting used to the idea. A staff field trip to another museum that has implemented the program might help them see the value of it.
  • Staff feels implementing a preservation procedure is time-consuming. The key to getting buy-in in this situation is starting small, with a pilot project.
  • Staff is unwilling to be one of the first organizations to implement preservation activities. Numerous organizations are already engaged in some form of preservation activity. Becoming familiar with them can help staff see that this is a new idea, but not an untried idea. Bring in staff from other museums who can talk about how it works at their institution.
  • Unfamiliarity with the details and practicalities of preservation practices, coupled with some unwillingness to learn more. Again, the key to getting buy-in in this situation is lots of staff education about preservation, your being an advocate for this program, you involving volunteers and other staff, and starting small in introducing the program with a pilot project.
  • Staff fears ... These could be numerous, from personal feelings of inadequacy to fears that you are empire-building. Do your best to identify these fears and address them respectfully.

Initially target those employees who already do preservation work in some capacity; they are most likely to be your first advocates for the program.

If you already have some systems in place such as pest monitoring or a handling policy, you can demonstrate that the organization would be building on information it already has to institute such a program.


Prepare a written plan


Develop a mission statement, goals and objectives for your proposed preservation program, and the introduction of a pilot project. Inventory resources, barriers, expectations, champions, etc. for such an endeavor. Identify the potential costs and fears voiced by staff members in your meetings with them about preservation and outline ways to allay those fears. With the group, establish a time line. It is imperative to have a plan. As a group, identify activities and assign responsible parties to complete them. When building the time line, be flexible enough to allow for changing dates.


Establish executive-level support and commitment (if you are a manager, and not the top executive). Without support from your organization's leadership, a preservation program is doomed to failure. Executive level commitment and ongoing support helps break down other managers' reluctance and gets these managers to participate long enough to see the positive results. If you've addressed the program's potential and addressed staff concerns, obtaining support should not be difficult.


Do an in-house training on agents of deterioration and how preservation actions halt or slow damage to the collection.


Once you've introduced the concept to the staff and gotten their initial buy-in to at least explore the idea, do a workshop to show how preservation actions are implemented and what damage they will reduce. Address the training requirements for supervisors, volunteers and support staff working on preservation tasks.


Amend the policies and procedures manual relating to collection care


The manual is your museum's daily road map for the standards that the museum maintains. Often its section on preservation is not thorough and leaves room for confusion or guesswork. Be specific about handling, object labeling, pest control, emergency response, storage, exhibit and loan standards that maintain preservation activities where ever artifacts are located. You should also define in your policies what would be grounds for an employee reprimand or dismissal.


Include preservation in staff job descriptions


Everyone on staff, from the custodian to the curator, has a hand in the collection's long-term preservation. Make sure this is reflected in job descriptions and reinforced in your regular personnel reviews.


Once you've completed laying the groundwork for a preservation program, you can explore the introduction of a preservation pilot project.


Excerpt from MS 008: Buy In: Getting All of Staff to Support Preservation which starts August 18, 2014.


Helen Alten founded Northern States Conservation Center 18 years ago and http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=0013qYreJUd4G3kTo6RsDVMiojXrg6o1WmWTuOPyDZRLAA_csNdyso4pgNNWc3-MygJVaKfzeAXmGL2g8Q4x3nQqOzg4nTKMvtcTx4JWRXVElE= 10 years ago. She is an objects conservator with a desire to bring about change through museums, improving our communities and the patrimony we leave to our off-spring.    

Numbering Museum Objects

By Peggy Schaller


When choosing a numbering system for your museum there are two important things to remember:


1. Be consistent in the application of the numbering system. It must be clearly understood and sustainable.


2. Each item must have a unique number. Be sure to maintain a log or some control over distribution of numbers--an Accession Register. Keeping this Accession Register as a bound, paper ledger is an important security and back-up measure. Computer registers can be changed easily.


Make sure you check your computer program for any restrictions on numbering (this applies to both current and future systems).


Why is numbering objects important?


The number gives each object a unique identifier and it matches objects to their documentation. This is the only purpose for the number. It does not have to tell you anything else. The details are in the documentation.


What is no longer recommended for numbering artifacts?


Fingernail polish is not a stable barrier material for use on museum collections. The main ingredient in fingernail polish is cellulose nitrate (yes, that is the same material those flammable movie films are made of) and over time it yellows, shrinks, stains and oozes acid!


Another commonly used material not recommended is white-out or a similar product. The formulas in these materials vary considerably and they will yellow and flake off over time.


What is currently recommended?


In general, materials used for marking museum objects should not damage the object or be harmful to the person applying the label and they should be reversible. By reversible we mean that it can be removed if necessary without harming the object to which it is applied. The ideal numbering system should be easy to use and teach, and use easily obtainable materials.


Four methods for applying a number to an object


1. Place the number on a separate material and attaching it to the object

2. Apply a barrier layer and write the number on that layer

3. Write directly on the piece

4. Use a combination of the above


How Do You Choose?

When choosing a technique and/or material, one should consider not only the material itself but the solvent used to remove it. This can be critical for objects made of plastic or other sensitive material.


Of the four methods for associating a permanent number with an artifact, the least damaging method is to place the number on a separate material and attach it to the object. This technique involves the use of tied-on tags or sewn-in labels and should be considered for many types of objects. This is the best method available for marking plastics since these materials can be subject to damage from inks, solvents and even water.


Placement of numbers on objects

  • Place the number in an inconspicuous spot on the object.
  • Place the number in an area where it won't be rubbed off by handling or abrasion.
  • Standardize placement throughout collection and be consistent. Note any deviations on the catalog record.

Join Helen Alten for an in depth look at numbering artifacts in MS 208: Applying Numbers to Collection Objects starting August 4, 2014.


Peggy Schaller, founded Collections Research for Museums in 1991 to provide cataloging, collection-management training and services. She has worked with a large variety of museums and collections for more than 20 years. Peggy, who lives in Denver, Colorado, has a bachelor's degree in anthropology with minors in art history and geology from the University of Arizona in Tucson. She has a master's degree in anthropology with a minor in museum studies from the University of Colorado in Boulder and is a Certified Institutional Protection Manager II. She provides workshops and project services to museums and historical societies all across the country. The mission of Collections Research for Museums is to inspire museums to improve their professional standards, collections stewardship and service to their constituency through training in, and assistance with, documenting, preserving, protecting and managing their collections. For more information visit her web site Collections Research for Museums. Peggy is also the Publications Manager and Certificate Program Coordinator for Northern States Conservation Center and museumclasses.org.

August 2014 Courses


MS101: Introduction to Museums

Instructor: John E. Simmons

August 4 - September 12, 2014


The United States has more than 17,000 museums, we can only guess at the world's total. While most people think of a museum as a well-staffed, professionally run institution, the vast majority of museums are started and run by people with little or no basic training in museum studies or preservation. Introduction to Museums is designed to change that. The course introduces basic concepts, terminology and the role of various staff members, including curators, registrars and directors. Introduction to Museums is aimed at staff members, board members, interns, volunteers, as well as anyone interested in becoming a museum professional or learning more about the profession.


MS208: Applying Numbers to Collection Objects

Instructor:  Helen Alten

August 4 - 29, 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.


MS236: Education in Museums

Instructor: Karin Hostetter

August 4 - 29, 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.


MS002: Collection Protection - Are you Prepared?

Instructor: Terri Schindel

August 11 - 15, 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 Staff to Support Preservation

Instructor: Helen Alten

August 18 - 22, 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 www.museumclasses.org in Collections Management & Care, Museum Administration & Management, Exhibit Practices and Museum Facilities Management.


Helen Alten, Director

Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager