JAIC 2005, Volume 44, Number 2, Article 6 (pp. 127 to 141)
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 2005, Volume 44, Number 2, Article 6 (pp. 127 to 141)




This concept has since provided the theoretical underpinning for a conservation assessment currently being carried out by English Heritage for its 134 properties containing collections. The conservation assessment is an application of the risk assessment–condition survey concept described, and carried out by the Collections Conservation Team.

This process started in May 2003 and is ongoing. A desire to consistently prioritize the different preventive actions over a broad range of properties, as well as evidence that the collections needed preservation, was required. These assessments are often the only time that conservators can systematically examine sites and collections spread across the country.

The Collections Conservation Team is small, with a large number of collections, and is mostly concerned with preventive conservation. The conservation assessment is intended to provide a solutions-based approach to collections management. Given the number of locations, the Collections Conservation Team had already built up a range of activities such as training and collections care systems for site staff to use. The direction of these programs and other preventive conservation activities were to be established by risk management.

The possibility of mitigating risks that are not a threat to the collection, when those resources can be spent elsewhere, was considered, as well as the possibility that collections are vulnerable to environments that appear to be suitable.

Because similar information was required for the two processes, such as the kind of collection, details of the location, and the value of the collection, the integration of the assessments had the benefit of the same information being useful to both processes and collected only once. The process carried out the collection condition survey first. Surveying collection condition also helped to refine estimations of the kinds and quantities of materials present in certain locations.1 Location notes were written as well, to provide more detail and help with the mitigation of identified risks. Environmental information was not readily available in all of the 134 sites, so the risk assessment was sometimes difficult, but it could be refined because of the collection condition survey system.

There was often evidence of hazards that did not significantly contribute to an object's deterioration. In practice, it was determined that causes of deterioration should be regarded as major or minor and treated separately. The condition grade was attributed to the major causes of deterioration, if any, and minor causes were not included when more significant damage was present.

The risks chosen were tailored to the solutions-based approach of the team. As a result, display and storage materials were looked at as a risk, and disasters were categorized as one overall risk, since disaster prevention and training are carried out at the same time. Inherent deterioration of objects was an added risk, since object deterioration and lack of exposure may indicate that the objects themselves are unstable, and this factor would affect the selection of options for mitigation and explain the possibility of deterioration in benign environments.

The assessment of risk involves two scores—one that assesses probability, the fraction susceptible and loss, based on Waller's (1999) magnitude of risk, and a second that includes curatorial value.2 The risk to the collections can be related to condition without the value of the collections influencing this comparison. The overall risk score could be used to make decisions based on the value of the collections. The scoring can be done using Waller's (2003) system but it was altered for the team's purposes.

Table . The Relationship Between Condition Data and Risk

Current results indicate that there is a difference between risk scores and condition scores for all types of risk, as well as correlation of risk scores and existing damage.

Copyright 2005 American Institution for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works