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Regional Lectures & Workshops

The following workshops are available and may be tailored to your needs. Call Northern States Conservation Center at (651) 659-9420 to book a workshop for your next museum meeting or staff training session.

The Basics of Collections Care
An introduction to the basic principles of collection preservation. Depending on the audience and venue, can be two to four hours. Often combined with other topics held in the afternoon of a full day workshop. Covers the agents of deterioration and simple, cost-effective methods of minimizing their effect. Often includes handling discussions and demonstrations.

Museum Materials
A comprehensive review of all the materials used for storage and display of collections. Separates products according to their function: rigid, padding, barrier, attachments. Emphasizes the use of acid-free materials and how less appropriate materials can be retrofitted. Remains current with the latest materials available for preservation work, such as metal impregnated plastics and barrier films. Discusses material testing as a decision-making tool. Participants receive a notebook with samples of all of the materials discussed.

Box-making and Padded Supports
Often combined with the materials workshop, this session concentrates on using different materials to make simple forms that can serve as exhibit mounts or storage supports. Includes working with corrugated plastics and card boards, polyethylene foams, and polyester quilt batting to construct boxes, padded boards, snakes, rings and trays. Participants receive materials to completely construct boxes and padded supports. Usually a half-day workshop. Recommend combining with the materials workshop for 1-2 day workshop, allowing more time for participants to assimilate information and work with the materials.

Construction of Museum Quality Mannequins
An overview of the different mannequin types found in museums, with an in-depth discussion of their construction techniques. Depending on the time given for this workshop, participants will construct mannequins from a variety of materials. If time is limited, participants will construct only one, or a partial mannequin. Covers the use of rigid foams, rigid netting or screen, paper tape, casting and molding, padding materials and re-using store mannequins or dressmaker’s forms. An overview of materials and materials testing is provided. Full workshop is 3-5 days. Partial workshop (lecture and examples) is 1 day.

Constructing Museum Storage and Exhibit Mounts
An overview of mounts used in museums around the country is followed by practical demonstrations of different materials and how they are used. Depending on the course length, participants will have more or less time to experiment with different techniques. If combined with Museum Materials and How to Write Condition Assessments, over a week this course provides an in-depth approach to mounts and their uses. In the longer version, this course is taught by two people, a mount-maker and a conservator. The course covers padded mounts, brass mounts, Plexiglas, study storage drawers, traveling exhibits, foam supports, and attachment techniques. Shorter version (1 day), provides an overview and a few simple examples for students to try with one instructor.

How to Write Condition Assessments for Traveling Exhibits
Going beyond "good" and "bad" this session provides a brief overview of what should be in a condition assessment for traveling exhibit pieces. Sample forms, examination tools, and glossaries are provided. Insurance implications are discussed as part of the purpose of condition assessments. Participants will write condition assessments on a variety of items for review with a conservator.

Improving the Artifact’s Experience: Exhibits and Conservation
A brief overview of the agents of deterioration and how they impact exhibits leads into more complicated discussions of lighting, relative humidity and temperature controls, and exhibit case construction. Inexpensive and expensive solutions will be discussed and compared. Participants will receive detailed construction drawings for examples whenever possible.

Collections Care Planning in Museums
Collections care requires institutional commitment to occur. In order to care for a collection, staff must know the history of care in their institution, what their roles are, and what will be done for the collection in the future. Many grants require a written collections care plan. This workshop helps museum staff in an institution or region prioritize their needs and develop a workable collections care plan outline. If given to staff from one institution, it should be combined with a walk-through and status assessment. If provided for a region, it works well with Fundraising Basics.

Safety in Numbers
Inventory control is one of the biggest concerns of today’s museums. However, labeling artifacts with an inventory number has caused permanent damage to many collections. How can "cultural graffiti" be minimized? This workshop introduces historical as well as current thoughts on artifact labeling. The longevity of labels, their effect on substrates, and recommended techniques are covered. Provided as a half or full day workshop. Artifact numbering kit may be provided to participants for an additional cost.

Fundraising Basics
Collections care requires money. Obtaining money is a skill that can be learned. This workshop provides examples of successful federal grants, discusses foundation funding, and offers examples of alternative funding sources. Based on workshops designed by the National Institute for Conservation and the Foundation Center, this workshop combines all aspects of fundraising and ties it to collections care planning. Participants conclude by developing a project that could be funded for their institution. It is recommended that this workshop be combined with Collections Care Planning.

Housekeeping in Historic Homes
Living history farms and historic homes use their collection to depict a period in time. Because houses were not constructed with environmental controls, and collections are handled, used and cleaned, museum items in these environments are often damaged. This session covers practical ways that a staff can clean and maintain their house and collection to minimize damage. The session will help participants delineate between general care and conservation needs. Finally, the session will address long-range solutions that may be necessary for the permanent care of the collection.

Integrated Pest Management
This workshop introduces the history and concept of pest management and discusses how it is implemented. Setting up a monitoring program, eradicating infestations, and discouraging pest access are all discussed in detail. Based on the successful 1996 AAM panel, this workshop provides the latest information available about integrated pest management and its implementation.

Emergency Planning
An initial overview defines emergency situations, the importance of planning and networking and the effects of emergencies on collections and staff. Risk assessment, contents of a plan, and human safety are covered in detail. Handouts include forms that can be easily altered to fit the needs of each institution. This workshop can be held for a region or for one institution (where it should be combined with a site walk-through).

Emergency Response
After a brief overview of emergency planning, this workshop focuses on practicing emergency salvage procedures. An emphasis is placed on wet salvage, since most emergency situations involve water. The broad range of materials are salvaged: paintings, books, files, leather, iron, ceramics, stone, textiles, baskets, photographs, glass, film and videotape. Freezing and air-drying are both practiced. The workshop broadens staff awareness how much material is required for proper salvage operations. This workshop is two-days and cannot be shortened.

Series of "Care of" workshops:
Each workshop starts with an overview of the agents of deterioration and an explanation of conservation and the role of conservators. Then the material that is the topic of the workshop is discussed in depth: how it is constructed, how it deteriorates, how deterioration can be lessened, how it should be handled. In the afternoon storage, display and basic cleaning techniques are demonstrated and students have an opportunity to try each. The day usually concludes with "show and tell" of artifacts brought by each participant. During this final session, each piece is discussed in terms of the damage it shows, how it can be cleaned, stored or exhibited. This workshop can be shortened and lengthened, depending on the amount of time available for student practice. The following topics are available:
Care of Textiles
Care of Quilts
Care of Basketry
Care of Leather
Care of Metals (may be broken out to silver, copper alloy, iron)
Care of Wood
Care of Ivory, Bone and Horn
Care of Native American Artifacts (part is Care of Feathers and Quills)
Care of Ceramics, Glass and Stone (each can be a separate session)

Excavation and Care of Archaeological Materials
An overview of advanced lifting techniques and archaeological conservation concerns. Depending on the area, workshops emphasize dry, wet or frozen sites. Block lifting, stabilizing finds, and the role of a conservator are discussed. Participants will experiment with all of the techniques in a sample excavation created for the workshop. If you like getting dirty, this is the workshop for you!

General Conservation Survey
This site visit examines staff policies and procedures as they relate to the collection; the facility and its ability to maintain environmental controls and protect the collection; staff handling procedures and training in collections care principles; collections areas including exhibits and storage; and areas where food is consumed. The visit starts with an initial meeting with the director to lay out the agenda for the visit and ask some basic questions about the organization. At the end of the site visit, a second meeting with the director provides an overview of the assessor’s findings. Based on the National Institute for Conservation’s (NIC) Conservation Assessment Program (CAP), a general survey of a small museum facility requires two days at the site and three days to write a report. Larger institutions require more time for site analysis and report writing. A number of institutions use these reports to write long range plans and successfully obtain grant funds.

Emergency Planning
This site visit examines the facility for potential large-scale risks to the collection. The visit starts with a staff meeting to discuss emergency priorities and first response. After the meeting, a facility walk-through with five key staff members identifies areas of large or small risk. These people also attend separate meetings with representatives from the museum’s insurance carrier and the local fire and police departments. At the end of the visit, an outline of an emergency plan is drawn from the collated information. Staff have one month to write a first draft for review and schedule the first of a series of drills. A second site visit will work with staff during one of the drills.

Collections Care Planning
Similar to a general survey, this site visit examines the facility for long-term risks to the collection. Designed to assist staff prioritize collections needs, within a day the skeleton of a workable plan is completed. The visit starts with a staff meeting to discuss collections needs they have noticed. This is followed by a facility walk-through with five key staff members to identify problem areas. At the end of the visit, information gathered is collated and assembled into the outline of long range collections care plan. Staff have one month to write a first draft for review and comments by the assessor. A final draft should be completed in two months.

Specific Object Surveys
Once a general survey has been completed, environmental controls are in place, and staff training ensures that the collection is well cared for, it is time to examine each object and establish a dated condition record. Specific object surveys provide a written condition report on each object that includes treatment priorities and proposed treatments. These surveys are useful in determining which collection item should be treated next or for raising funds for treatments.