Setpember 15, 2014     
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The Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter

Museum Management

In This Issue
Care of Paintings
Regional Workshops
Conferences and Meetings
NSCC Attending AASLH Meeting
Strategic Planning in Museums
Introduction to Integrated Pest Management
October 2014 Courses
Submissions and Comments
Upcoming Classes

October 6, 2014


MS227: Care of Paintings


MS209: Collections Management Policies for Museums and Related Institutions


MS238: Design and Construction of Exhibit Mounts


MS210: Integrated Pest Management for Museums, Libraries and Archives


MS109: Museum Management


October 13, 2014


MS014: Education Collections Short Course


October 20, 2014


November 3, 2014 

Care of Paintings

By Victoria Montana Ryan


Have you ever wondered about how to take care of a painting? Some think when you have a painting, that's it - you hang it on a wall and never have to worry about it again. In fact, it requires continuing attention. Paintings require proper care to survive and you are entrusted with providing that care. 

This course looks at paintings in a way you may be unaccustomed to and will provide information on how to provide necessary care.  This course does not teach you how to become a paintings conservator or how to 'restore' paintings. Preventive care is the focus of this course. With preventive care a greater number of paintings will benefit and more invasive steps like conservation treatments may be delayed or avoided.


Although we can all identify a painting, they can be very different things. This course focuses on traditional paintings - what most of us would identify as oil or acrylic paintings on some type of fabric support. It is a combination of paint type and support type that defines the term "painting" for this course.


What about watercolors you might ask. Because watercolors are on a paper support they are considered works of art on paper (as are prints and photographs). They are not included in the discussions here, though tips for proper care of watercolors will be mentioned at the end of this course. Paper conservators should be consulted about works of art on paper.


Join Victoria in October for her Care of Paintings course and learn more.


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. Victoria Montana Ryan received her Master of Art Conservation from Queen's University and a Master of Arts degree with an emphasis in Art Education/Museum Studies from the University of New Mexico. Ms. Ryan has authored papers on the care of paintings, integrated pest management, and the importance of working with appraisers; she has also appeared on the Discovery Channel to discuss care of personal treasures. A Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation, Ms. Ryan is also a member of the Western Association for Art Conservation and the Canadian Association for Conservation. She resides in Colorado Springs, CO where she operates her private conservation practice, Art Care Services, to serve the conservation needs of museums, historical societies, public and private collectors, institutions, corporations, and municipalities, focusing on the care and preservation of works of art. For more information visit her web site Art Care Services.

Preservation Guide 3: Paintings
Preservation Guide 3: Paintings
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.

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




Pest Management in Museums, Archives, and Historic Houses

Pest Management in Museums, Archives, and Historic Houses

Author: David Pinniger. This is a working guide to help people recognize insect, rodent and bird pests and take practical steps to prevent and control damage to collections. It covers the many recent developments in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in the heritage sector. The book includes new information on trapping and detection of pests and the advantages and disadvantages of physical and chemical control measures. The illustrations have been produced especially for this book and are some of the clearest pictures of museum insects yet published. The chapter on rodent and bird pests completes the comprehensive coverage of any pest problem likely to be encountered. The concerns over the use of pesticides on objects, staff and the environment and the options available are rationally discussed. Applying the principles of IPM, as described in this book, to museums, archives and historic houses is not only safer, but also more cost-effective than many pest control techniques used by museums in the past.  

Pest Management in Museums, Archives, and Historic Houses  




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. 

National Association for Interpretation, Denver, CO 

  • Professional Development Ascends to New Heights, November 18, 2014 (co-presenting with Peggy Schaller)

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. 

Peggy Schaller

Mountain-Plains Museums Association, Aspen, CO 

  • Creative Collection Inventory Methods, October 1, 2014 (co-presenting with Sofia Galarza Liu)

National Association for Interpretation, Denver, CO 

  • Professional Development Ascends to New Heights, November 18, 2014 (co-presenting with Karin Hostetter)

Conferences and Meetings


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


Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Annual Meeting, October 22-24, 2014, Washington, DC 


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 

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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.
Northern States Conservation Center personnel will be manning a booth at the American Association for State and Local History Annual Meeting in St Paul, MN September 17 through the 20, 2015.  If you are attending the meeting come by and see us!  We would love to meet and talk with you!

Helen Alten, Director
Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager and Certificate Program Coordinator
Jessy Shaw, Office Manager

Strategic Planning in Museums

By Susan Near


What is strategic planning?

A strategic plan states general goals with specific objectives, delegates responsibility, establishes deadlines and a system of evaluation, and facilitates daily decision making


It is a management tool to help an organization do a better job in fulfilling its mission.


Strategic planning is a systematic effort to obtain organizational agreement on establishing priorities which are essential to its mission and are responsive to its environment.


Strategic planning builds commitment among key stakeholders of the organization and creates a unified sense of organizational identity.


Strategic planning helps leaders to be deliberate and pro-active in allocating resources to achieve stated priorities.


Why strategic planning?

The strategic planning process helps organizations identify various strategic options and to make intelligent choices in developing strategic directions and plans to best accomplish your mission.


Strategic planning can help an organization to focus its vision and to ensure that members of the organization are working toward the same goals.


Strategic planning requires the board and staff to analyze external environments and to consider audience and stakeholder needs in the development of institutional priorities.


Strategic planning is important when reviewing opportunities for programming, i.e. what programs are the most cost-effective, mission-driven, and best use of staff time?


Strategic planning can improve the institution's status in the community, leading to better visibility and increased opportunity for support - monetary and political.


What are components of a strategic plan?

Mission: The purpose of the museum, why you exist, and the public impact of your existence.


Core values: These are the beliefs that drive your organization. They focus on what is most important in the way that your organization is operated on a daily basis.


Vision: The articulation of what your organization wants to become in the future.


Goals:  What does the organization want to accomplish? Goals are broad statements related to specific key areas identified by board and staff. For each goal, provide a framework for why the goal has been included in the plan.


Objectives: Objectives state how the goals will be accomplished -- they are measurable and have a timeline. For each objective, identification of who will be assigned to oversee the completion of the objective; when the objective is expected to be completed; and what will be needed to accomplish the objective is stated.


Tackling strategic planning

1. Focus on the most important issues during your strategic planning process. You simply won't have time, energy or resources to do it all.

  • Inevitably there are only a few critical choices which the planning process must answer. Resist the temptation to pursue all of the "interesting" questions.

2. Be willing to question the status quo.

  • In order to understand what is most important in the current and in the expected future, old assumptions about what is important must be challenged. It is possible to honor the past and still to make new decisions - don't allow new ideas to be characterized as inherent criticisms of the past.

3. Produce a document.

  • Whether an organization engages in an abbreviated process or an extensive strategic planning process, a planning document should be created. A useful strategic plan can be a few pages long. The document is a symbol of accomplishment, a guide for internal operations, and a marketing tool for current and future supporters.

4. Make sure the strategic plan is translated into an annual operating plan for at least the first year.

  • A critical test of a good strategic plan is that the operational implications are clear. Without a practical operating plan that articulates short-term priorities, and clearly identifies who is responsible for implementation, a strategic plan will rarely be implemented. Writing the first year's annual operating plan and supporting budget with the strategic plan in mind makes sure your strategic plan passes this test.

Now What?

Successful strategic planning processes support an organization involving its stakeholders (paid and volunteer staff, board, clients, funders, and the community) in reaching consensus about what end results they are trying to achieve (external vision, purpose, goals, and objectives), and the means to accomplish those results (internal vision, core services, specific programs and administrative functions, and activities).


Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence), John Carver (Boards That Make a Difference), and many others have emphasized the need for the people implementing a strategic plan to have enough flexibility and authority to be creative and responsive to new developments - without having to reconstruct an entire strategic plan. This flexibility is required most in adjusting means. In other words, the purpose of an organization and the priority goals are much less likely to change than are the programs and activities necessary to achieve them. An organization's strategic plan is not an end in itself, but rather a means of achieving its purpose.


Excerpt from MS109 Museum Management.  


Susan Near is the Development & Marketing Officer at the Montana Historical Society in Helena. Prior positions at the Historical Society include director of museum services (1989-2007), curator of collections (1984-1989), and registrar (1982-1984). She also worked as collections research specialist at the Valley Forge Historical Society in Pennsylvania. She has been curator for more than 20 major exhibitions ranging from western art to decorative arts, and has conducted material culture research covering a broad range of collections. Near co-authored Montana's State Capitol: The People's House, Montana Historical Society Press, 2002. Near has extensive administrative experience especially in grant-writing, heritage tourism, educational outreach, public relations, marketing, planning for new museum construction, and project and event management. She is an accreditation visiting committee member for the American Association of Museums, has conducted peer reviews for the Museums Assessment Program, and has reviewed and served on grants panels for the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Ms. Near is a graduate of the Museum Studies Program at the University of Delaware and the Getty's Museum Management Institute.

Introduction to Integrated Pest Management

By Helen Alten


Integrated Pest Management may sound fancy, but this method of controlling insects, mice and other problem critters is really quite simple. IPM, as this method is known, uses a holistic approach to preventing and solving pest problems, largely without using toxic chemicals. Its aim is to deal with pests in the most efficient and ecologically sound manner without compromising the safety of the collection, museum staff or visitors. IPM has become the standard for U.S. museums. It is used to treat incoming items and monitoring a museum's existing collection.


What is Integrated Pest Management?

The term "Integrated Pest Management," or IPM, describes a method developed to reduce pest activity by using a combination of strategies. It was originally developed for agriculture to reduce reliance on pesticides. IPM combines environmental control, monitoring and good housekeeping. Specific pest species are targeted. The arsenal of tools include:

  • Exclusion
  • Monitoring
  • Good housekeeping
  • Limited use of pesticide

IPM is based on understanding the life cycle of the pest - be it insect, rodent, bat, or mold - to control or limit pest activity in buildings and collections. All living things require food, water, air, and shelter. By blocking access to one of these requirements, the infestation can often be eliminated or at least more easily controlled.


There are five steps to an IPM program:

  • Monitoring: tells you what species are present, why they are there and where they are entering the facility.
  • Blocking: equals prevention by eliminating ways that pests can enter the building.
  • Treating: Once an infestation is discovered, treat using the least toxic approach to eliminate the problem.
  • Documentation: Keep track of treatments and infestations using forms that become part of a regular review and assessment of success.
  • Evaluation and Revision: modify procedures as needs change. IPM is not static.

A word of warning, IPM can be labor intensive. However, it is extremely rewarding. Once you have adopted these procedures you will have a better handle on the pest species that are present and be better stewards of your collections.


Why use IPM strategies in a museum?

Many collections in a museum, library, and historic house are susceptible to pests. Traditionally, we have used pesticides to protect those collections. In fact, pesticides have been used extensively and indiscriminately, often without knowledge of how they might damage the collection they were meant to protect. Little thought was given to the long-term affects of poisons on the environment or on the people caretaking the collection. Some objects were purposely treated with arsenic and similar poisons to protect against insects. We know now that indiscriminate pesticide use is unhealthy for the collections, for those of us caring for the collections, and for the environment.1 Despite that, we still need to protect the collections, historic sites, and archives from pests.


Pesticides, of course, can cause health problems for humans.2 But they also can damage museum collections. Overuse or improper use is illegal. Most pesticides that are sold over the counter are not approved for use in public facilities. The label on the container is the law. If it says "For home use only," then use in the museum is illegal.


The primary IPM principles adapt comfortably into the world of preservation and are the basis of the plan. We monitor to know what pests threaten our collection, our archive, or historic structure. Once we know who the enemy is we can build a strategy that is the least damaging to the things we want to protect while eliminating the pests. The strategies include: modifying environments through exclusion, environmental control, and good housekeeping; treatment of objects, specimens, archives, and structures directed at the specific pest with less toxic methods and carefully directed use of pesticide (yes pesticides can be used, but only under very strict guidelines.)


A holistic approach to pest control provides us with a way to ensure that the collections and structures we endeavor to protect are preserved. A well-planned and executed IPM program will reduce the occurrence of pests, and prevent ongoing crisis, at the same time as protecting human health. IPM moves away from attempting to deal with crisis after crisis to a more reasonable and safe management of pests. It moves away from reactionary to an ongoing program.


What are Pests?

A pest is an organism that comes into conflict with humans. For those of us who work with museum collections, archives, and historic structures that usually means insects, rodents and other vertebrates, and mold. These and other pests threaten the collections and historic structures. They may also be a threat to human health.


In this course, we will look at some of the most common museum pests. However, this is not intended to teach you everything you might need to know about the pests you might encounter at your museum. The aim is to provide you with the tools to identify those pests, develop strategies to mitigate the problem and the resources to develop and implement the plan.


Pests as an Agent of Deterioration

The Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) has defined ten "Agents of Deterioration", one of which is pests. Agents of deterioration are actions that negatively affect museum objects and cause deterioration. "Pests" is one of the ten. Other agents that are interconnected with pests are the environmental ones: incorrect relative humidity, incorrect temperature, and light.


CCI developed the "Famework for Preservation of Museum Collections" ( as a method for developing strategies to mitigate the deterioration of museum collections. This is done through controlling the original nine agents on various levels: at the building level, at the portable fittings level (e.g. storage cabinets), and procedures. Each level has five control methods:

  • Avoid
  • Block
  • Detect
  • Respond
  • Recovery/treatment

The framework provides the tools to help develop the strategy needed to deal with an infestation. It provides clear guidelines in thinking about this and other overwhelming problems that collections caretakers are often faced with. Methodology of the framework will be referred to throughout this course.


Elements of a plan

An IPM strategy should be relevant to the needs of a specific institution, collection, or historic structure. It should be practical and achievable. When designing a plan, be careful not to get too complex! Use local expertise. The plan itself should be considered a process; it will evolve. You will be checking and cross checking its efficacy over time, refining it as you become more familiar with the pests and conditions at your specific institution. As you develop your plan, keep in mind that this is a holistic and interdisciplinary approach.


There are four key stages in developing the plan: (Pinniger 2001)

  • Recognizing and identifying priorities for action
  • Identifying responsible staff
  • Taking action on high priorities
  • Establishing procedures for future planning, financing, and review.

In order to develop a successful IPM strategy, you must recognize and understand some of the key components of successful pest control. You will see this repeated throughout this course.

  • Avoid pests by removing sources of infestation and attractants
  • Block pests from having access, from taking up residence.
  • Recognize pests-the main species and the damage they cause (Detect)
  • Assess the problem - by inspections and trapping (detect)
  • Solve the problem - by improving environment and carrying out specific treatments (Respond)
  • Review IPM procedures periodically to make improve efficacy (recover, treat. Review)


1 Odegaard, Nancy, et. al. Old Poisons, New Problems: A Museum Resource for Managing Contaminated Cultural Materials. AltaMira Press, March 2005. 


2 Reigart, J. Routt, M.D. and Roberts, James R., M.D., M.P.H., Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings, Fifth Edition, 1999. Office of Pesticide Programs, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW (7506C), Washington, DC 20460, 703-305-7666, 



Excerpt from Integrated Pest Management for Museums, Archives, and Historic Houses.


Helen Alten founded Northern States Conservation Center 18 years ago and 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.   

October 2014 Courses


MS227: Care of Paintings

October 6 to November 14, 2014

Instructor: Victoria Montana Ryan


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.


MS209: Collections Management Policies for Museums and Related Institutions

October 6 to November 14, 2014

Instructor: John E. Simmons


Acquiring and holding collections impose specific legal, ethical and professional obligations. Museums must ensure proper management, preservation and use of their collections. A well-crafted collections management policy is key to collections stewardship. Collections Management Policies for Museums and Related Institutions helps participants develop policies that meet professional and legal standards for collections management. Collections Management Policies for Museums and Related Institutions teaches the practical skills and knowledge needed to write and implement such a policy. The course covers the essential components and issues a policy should address. It also highlights the role of the policy in carrying out a museum's mission and guiding stewardship decisions. Participants are expected to draft collections management policies.


MS238: Design and Construction of Exhibit Mounts

October 6 to November 14, 2014

Instructor: Tom Bennett


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 mountmaking 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.


MS210: Integrated Pest Management for Museums, Libraries and Archives

October 6 to November 14

Instructor: Helen Alten


The only thing worse than mice or cockroaches in your kitchen, is finding them in your museum collection. Participants in Integrated Pest Management for Museums, Libraries and Archives learn low-toxicity methods of controlling infestations. IPM is the standard method for treating incoming items and monitoring holdings. Integrated Pest Management for Museums, Libraries and Archives discusses how infestations occur, helps identify risks, provides feasible mitigation strategies, discusses the different techniques of treating infested materials, and helps you complete an IPM plan and monitoring schedule for your institution. The course covers pest identification, insects, rodent, birds, bats, other mammals and mold infestations, as well as other problems raised by participants.


MS109: Museum Management

October 6 to November 14, 2014

Instructor: Sue Near


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.


MS014: Education Collections Short Course

October 13 to 17, 2014

Instructor: Karin Hostetter


What do you do with collection objects that no longer belong in the scientific collection but are too good to throw out? What do you do with the donations that just don't quite 'fit?' Use them in education collections. Their value as educational objects for the public is immeasurable.


MS001: The Problem with Plastics Short Course

October 20 to October 24, 2014

Instructor: Diana Komejan


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 is 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 Diana in this mini-course for discussing care and deterioration of plastics. Bring any questions you have about plastics in your museum.

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

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