NMSC museum specialist Jennifer McCann has been on the road quite a bit this year conducting Risk Assessments at various Northeast Region parks. In this blog post, Jennifer outlines the purpose and goals of a Risk Assessment and talks about some of the things we can do – and not do – to keep our museum collections safe.
[The following blog post written by Jennifer McCann.]
As part of our ongoing mission to protect cultural resources in the National Parks of the Northeast Region, NMSC has recently undertaken a series of Risk Assessments. We visit all of a park’s collection-holding facilities and pose a series of questions about things like fire suppression, security, environmental hazards, and more. We use the answers to those questions to determine a “Risk Assessment Code”, which tells us how much danger is posed to a particular collection. Some collections are inherently at a higher risk due to the location of the park, such as in a flood plain or on a fault line. Some collections are threatened by the close presence of facilities that generally don’t pose a risk, but could if something bad happened there, such as chemical and power plants or airports. There are a lot of things that can happen to museums that are out of our control.
We do our best to mitigate these risks in lots of ways: actively engaging our communities, creating emergency response plans, installing fire suppression systems, and keeping an eye on the weather. But there are many small things we can do every day to minimize the risks to our collection from everyday existence. To help illustrate some of the things all museum staff (and volunteers!) can do to protect our cultural heritage, I enlisted the help of NMSC’s own Nikki and Jessica. If you remember “Highlights” magazine from your childhood, you might remember “Goofus and Gallant”: a cartoon which showed bad behavior versus good behavior. For our purposes here, Nikki is “Goofus” to Jessica’s “Gallant”. (Please note that all photos were staged, that Nikki is actually a very conscientious museum technician who posed under duress, and that no museum objects were endangered.)
What can you do to keep museum collections safe? Let Jessica and Nikki show you…
Keep alarm codes secure
Keep collection areas locked and keys secure
Document and monitor visitors in museum collection spaces
Keep fire extinguishers in working order and in plain view
Store and move boxes safely
No explanation needed here…
Hopefully we don’t have to tell you…
Create an environment that suits the museum collection, not your personal comfort level
Do not eat in spaces housing museum collections
Review your Emergency Operations Plan
Heeding these dos and don’ts are just a few ways to make sure your collections aren’t exposed to unnecessary risk. What else do you do keep your collections safe and secure?