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Subject: Conference on collections environment

Conference on collections environment

From: Lambertus van Zelst <lvz>
Date: Monday, August 5, 1996
Over the past years, a group of scientists at the Smithsonian
Institution's Conservation Analytical Laboratory (CAL) has engaged
in research on the effects of environmental conditions, especially
temperature and relative humidity, on the stability of collection
artefacts, with an emphasis on the mechanical properties of the
constituent materials and the composite objects. There appears to be
general agreement that the results of this research have enriched
the understanding of the relationships between environmental
conditions and object stability, and that they have significant
implications for decisions on defining the appropriate environmental
parameters for specific collections. Nevertheless, the extrapolation
of these research data to actual recommendations for collections
environment parameters has led to a great amount of confusion,
misunderstanding and even controversy.

The research data generated at CAL do not stand alone, but must and
can be evaluated only in the context of results obtained in research
at other institutions worldwide, pertaining to a wide spectrum of
effects and processes involved in the interaction of collection
items with the environment. Such contextualization also must
consider the technological means and the cost involved in
controlling the environment within specified parameters. It would
appear that the presently ongoing series of ad-hoc debates, often
addressing only a small fraction of the complex issues at hand,
offers little hope of reaching a consensus and common understanding
of the state of the knowledge in this area and its implications in
actual collections care and management.

The Smithsonian Institution feels that an urgent need exists for an
open discussion of the extant issues, in a professional forum of
those engaged in the conservation, preservation and care of
collections. The Smithsonian therefore announces its intent to
organize, in co-sponsorship with the National Center for
Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT), a 3-day international
conference on the collections environment, to be held in the fall of
1997 at the Institution in Washington, DC. The internationally
recognized conservation scientist Dr. Frank D. Preusser has accepted
the program chairmanship of the conference. During the rest of this
year, Dr. Preusser will undertake a thorough worldwide review and
assessment of research and data pertaining to the subject. Based on
the results of this assessment, he will identify the issues that
specifically need to be addressed and discussed at the conference,
and draft a preliminary program. At that time, a call for papers
will also be issued.  It is the intention to publish a volume with
invited papers, edited by Dr. Preusser, subsequent to the

The Smithsonian Institution hopes and expects that this conference
will serve to clarify a large number of the issues that pertain to
the subject of the collections environment and will result in a
generally accepted understanding of the factors to be considered in
the specification of environmental parameters for a specific

For information, contact:

    Office of the Director
    Conservation Analytical Laboratory
    Smithsonian Institution, MRC 534
    Washington, DC 20560
    Fax: 301-238-3709

                  Conservation DistList Instance 10:16
                 Distributed: Wednesday, August 7, 1996
                       Message Id: cdl-10-16-001
Received on Monday, 5 August, 1996

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