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Subject: Conservation guidelines

Conservation guidelines

From: Mary Fahey <maryf>
Date: Monday, May 13, 2002
Rae Atira-Soncea <rae.atira-soncea [at] arts__state__wi__us> writes

>What criteria does your organization use to determine which pieces
>to treat or what to (basically) ignore. We have specific criteria
>for de-accessioning, but that seems significantly different then
>making treatment decisions.

We recently adopted a policy that is similar to that described by
Thomas Dixon. It requires Curators to assign a rank of 1-4 to all
newly acquired artifacts or to those requiring conservation
examination or treatment.

The rank, is recorded by the curator in the computerized collection
management system and is accessible to staff conservators through
computerized conservation work requests. Historically significant
artifacts are assigned a code of  "1" whereas common items that can
be easily and inexpensively acquired are assigned a rank 4.
Artifacts that might have reduced historical value due to having
been heavily or badly restored or altered might also be included in
this category. Rank 2 and 3 follow criteria that placed them
somewhere in between.

In most instances the amount of time spent on treatments is related
to the historical significance of the artifacts. For example a
wooden spoon that dates to the 1940's might be ranked a 4. Signaling
to the conservator that it would be inappropriate to spend 8 hours
conserving it. Whereas an automobile belonging to a President would
be categorized a rank 1 and considered appropriate for an extensive
treatment. This system is also used for surveys where condition is
assessed by a conservator, rank is assigned by the curator and
treatment priorities are set by matching the need for treatment with
the highest rank.

As Thomas Dixon mentioned, treatment priorities are also set by
exhibition schedules but rank also serves a function in this
situation. Curators, Conservators and designers can utilize rank to
make choices concerning high quality exhibit cases and climate
control. In the ideal world all artifacts would be displayed in high
quality climate controlled cases but financial constraints sometimes
force conservators to make difficult choices.

Our criteria for ranking are as follows:

    Level 1 Nationally or internationally significant, few is any
            duplicates in this or other collections, rare,

    Level 2 Significant historical value, few similar examples in
            this or other collections, uncommon and difficult to

    Level 3 Historical value, similar examples are held in this or
            other collections, moderately difficult to replace

    Level 4 Historical value, common in this or other collections,
            can be easily replaced

Recommended preservation guidelines were also formulated for each
level. They are a bit too large to include in this document.

Mary Fahey
Chief Conservator/ Head of Preservation
Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village
20900 Oakwood Blvd
Dearborn, Michigan 48121

                  Conservation DistList Instance 15:77
                  Distributed: Thursday, May 16, 2002
                       Message Id: cdl-15-77-003
Received on Monday, 13 May, 2002

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