March 15, 2014     
Northern States Conservation CenterNorthern States
Conservation Center

The Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter

NSCC Courses Produce Results
In This Issue
Regional Workshops
Conferences and Meetings
Submissions and Comments
2014 Course Schedule
From Fundamentals to Facelift
April 2014 Courses
Upcoming Classes

April 7, 2014 


MS104: An Introduction to Collections Preservation


MS106: Exhibit Fundamentals: Ideas to Installation


MS217: Museum Cleaning Basics


MS237: Formative Evaluation for Exhibits and Public Programs **NEW**


MS254: Retail Store Management for Small Museums


April 14, 2014


MS001: The Problem with Plastics (short course)


May 5, 2014



CCI Mount-making for Museum Objects by Robert Barclay, Andre Bergeron and Carole Dignard
Mount-making for Museum Objects
CCI Mount-making for Museum Objects by Robert Barclay, Andre Bergeron and Carole Dignard provides specific information and useful advice on the mounting of museum objects. Topics covered include reasons for creating mounts, recommended stable materials, tips on choosing materials, the working properties of materials, and methods for measuring artifacts. Objects with custom-made mounts are illustrated with photographs and line drawings. A supplier list and bibliography add to the overall quality of this book.

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"

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 

  • 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

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

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

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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 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.
Current Certificate Program participants receive 5% off courses.


By Heather Diamond, Ph.D.


When I became the curator of Iolani Palace in Honolulu three years ago, I was a department of one with only academic training in museum studies. The Palace, built in 1882 by Hawaii's second to last reigning monarch, King Kalakaua, houses two floors of period rooms, some basement galleries, and a collection of over 5,000 artifacts. At the time of my hire it had been without a curator for 6 months and a collections manager for 2 months. NSCC was a godsend in helping me to negotiate the steep learning curve between museum theory and practice.   My first course, MS 104: Introduction to Collections Preservation, guided me toward a basic understanding of the fundamentals of caring for our collection and, most importantly, provided me with enough information that I was able to hire a capable collections manager. My next challenge was dealing with our outdated exhibits with little or no budget.


To figure out where to start, I enrolled in MS 106, Exhibit Fundamentals: Ideas to Installation. I had no budget for exhibits at the time, so I crafted plans for a future exhibit as my course project. My focus was on music in the palace, and I projected that it could be installed in a room near our basement galleries and currently used for storage. As we progressed through the various lessons in the course, we were introduced to a wide range of exhibit components from the "big idea," visitor flow, and interpretive signage to exhibit objects, mounts, and lighting. My initial idea developed into a series of four sub-themes: traditional Hawaiian music and hula, compositions of the Hawaiian monarchs, European influences, and the Royal Hawaiian Band. I developed the beginnings of a big idea: Music associated with the Palace expressed cross-cultural influences and inter-cultural communication.


The first place I actually tested out principles from my exhibit course was in our current basement galleries. The opportunity came when we were gifted with a diamond that had belonged to King Kalakaua and the donor also contributed a modest amount of money to create a more impressive setting for its display. I used this donation to update three interconnected exhibits-Western Regalia, Royal Jewelry, and Royal Orders-designed in 2000 by an architectural firm. In these galleries, period colors and casements had been created to match architectural elements with the goal of making them visually in synch with the period rooms upstairs and as un-museum like as possible. An award winning book designer created signs that matched the wall colors. A few large black and white photographs were included to set off the artifacts. These galleries were deliberately understated and conservative. The exhibit course verified my suspicions that they were also deeply flawed.


The wall colors of these galleries, each visible from the next, were jarring: a progression from light gray, to dark gray-blue, to a brilliant red, all linked by gun-metal gray baseboards and molding. Large, covered window bays displayed only subtle gold monogram decals. Jewelry was mounted on dark blue velvet that reflected light rather than setting off the brilliance of the diamonds. Lighting throughout these galleries was general and lacking impact. In the Royal Orders Gallery, a tall, narrow space, a row of coronation shields near the ceiling was lost in shadow and the floor was illuminated at the same level as artifacts in the central cases. Signs were in a small, elegant font that was beautiful but very difficult to read.   Color contrast was low, there was way too much text, and much of the text was in italics. One sign was placed on a wall where visitors would have their backs turned. Others were placed flat on casement ledges, above the eye level of young children or anyone in a wheelchair. Cases containing many small artifacts had no diagrams or numbers to aid viewers in connecting text to object. Content wandered, with the coronation being mentioned in two non-adjacent rooms.


I set out to make these exhibits functional and beautiful.


First I had the jewelry exhibit space repainted a deep purple. Now the visual transition between rooms is harmonious and the jewelry has a dramatic backdrop. We replaced blue velvet with matte black Veltex that allows the diamonds to sparkle without the competition of reflected light. I re-wrote most of our interpretive labels so that they contained less text and information was logically grouped. We got rid of the italics, changed to a more standard font, and heightened the color contrast for better readability.  

Jewelry Exhibit at 'Iolani Palace, Honolulu, HI 


We designed a visual key to the coronation shields in the Royal Orders Gallery. For the ledge signs, I had wooden wedges constructed so that those labels are now mounted at an angle rather than flat.   All artifacts are now numbered with map pins that correspond to their informational labels. Finally, we removed almost half of our track lights and repositioned the remaining ones for maximum impact.


Royal Orders Gallery, 'Iolani Palace, Honolulu, HI 

I transformed the Modern Regalia gallery, which had been empty for several months, into the Royal Pageantry exhibit. By constructing a slant board for the long narrow case, I was able to create a two sided exhibit with Jubilee artifacts on one side and Masonic artifacts on the other.   I filled two empty window bays with new interpretive signs and added two photo murals and 2 smaller signs. As a result, a gallery that had once seemed nearly empty has life and focus.

Royal Pagentry Exhibit, 'Iolani Palace, Honolulu, HI

Even though our facelift was done on a shoestring budget, it has earned many compliments. Better yet, I feel much better prepared for the bigger exhibit project ahead.


In 2012-13, I was able to incorporate my initial music exhibit idea into NEH and IMLS planning grant proposals. After receiving both grants, we are now in the midst of exhibit planning for five new exhibits in the Palace galleries under the theme Points of Contact: Cultures in Collaboration. The music exhibit portion is drawn from what I devised for this course except each of its four segments will be expanded into its own room. We will be working with an exhibit design firm for this major project, so the process will be a far cry from hand-sewing Veltex on a slant board, as I did for the gallery facelift. However, I can't imagine approaching this collaborative process without the practical knowledge and confidence I gained through the NSCC Exhibit Fundamentals course.


Heather Diamond is the curator at ʻIolani Palace, where she is in charge of all aspects of exhibit development and interpretation as well as overseeing collections management.  She the author of American Aloha: Cultural Tourism and the Negotiation of Tradition (UH Press, 2008), and co-author of a forthcoming book on Hawaiʻi museums (UH Press 2015).  She earned a Ph.D. in American Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa where she currently teaches online courses in museum studies and Hawaii's multiculturalism. Check out the 'Iolani Palace website at 

April 2014 Courses


MS104: An Introduction to Collections Preservation

Instructors: Gretchen Anderson & Helen Alten

Apr 7 - May 2, 2014


Every museum professional needs a solid foundation in preservation principles and techniques. Introduction to Collections Preservation provides an overview of current preservation issues from environmental monitoring to collection cleaning, exhibit mounts and storage furniture. Participants learn about every aspect of the modern museum and how the building, staff and fixtures affect preservation. Subjects include the agents of deterioration, risk management, object handling and transport, object labeling, exhibit lighting, security, emergency preparedness, materials for storage and display, storage and exhibit philosophies, and condition assessments.


MS106: Exhibit Fundamentals: Ideas to Installation

Instructor: Lin Nelson-Mayson

Apr 7 - May 16, 2014


Nearly every museum develops exhibits, but how can we improve communication with visitors while taking care of our objects? Exhibit Fundamentals explores exhibits from idea to final installation in a variety of settings. Topics include exhibit theory, the role of the museum's mission, creating a timeline, accessibility and script writing. Also covered are design elements, installation techniques, object safety and security, visitor safety and evaluations. Each student develops an exhibit plan for his or her museum.


MS217: Museum Cleaning Basics

Instructor: Gretchen Anderson

Apr 7 - May 16, 2014


Cobwebs in the gallery, dust on the dinosaur skeleton, mice in storage - a dirty museum results in poor visitor experience and poor collections preservation. In a museum, cleanliness really is next to godliness. Museum Cleaning Basics explores everything you need to know about cleaning your collections. Participants learn when to clean - and when not to clean. They also learn how to make those decisions. Topics range from basic housekeeping to specific techniques for specific objects. You will learn why cleaning is important and how to prevent damage when cleaning. We will look at specific techniques that minimize damage while getting the work done. And we will discuss when to call in a specialist, such as a conservator. Students will create a housekeeping manual for their institution.


MS237: Formative Evaluation for Exhibits and Public Programs **NEW**

Instructor: Karin Hostetter

Apr 7 - May 2, 2014


Have you done some evaluation but did not get helpful information? Do you wish you could do some evaluation but think it is too hard or too expensive? Do you wonder how to get people to use an offered program more? You can do it and it can be easy. This course will help you determine what you really want to know, choose the right process to gather the information, develop meaningful questions, and figure out what the results tell you. Please have a program or text in mind (real or imagined) to work with during the course. Note: this course will not be looking statistical analysis.


MS254: Retail Store Management for Small Museums

Instructor: Karl Hoerig

Apr 7 - May 2, 2014


Retail stores play central roles in museum operations. Most museum managers and their boards or tribal councils recognize stores' revenue potential. But stores can also help serve the museum's educational mission, support perpetuation and revitalization of traditional arts, and impact audiences beyond the museum's doors. Utilizing expert perspectives and examples from diverse museum stores this course will explain why a museum store should not be just a "gift shop" and will present guidance on inventory management, buying and pricing, retail display, staff training and other administrative issues faced by museum store managers.


MS001: The Problem with Plastics (short course)

Instructor: Diana Komejan

Apr 14 - 18, 2014


As we march boldly toward the 22nd century, artifact collecting includes that most fragile of materials - plastic. Not only is it in our collections, but it's used to house our collections, too. What problems have you seen? What problems have others seen? What materials are best? What can we, as caretakers, do to minimize long-term damage? Join Helen for in this mini-course for discussing care and deterioration of plastics. Bring any questions you have about plastics in your museum.

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

Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager