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)




Risk assessments and condition surveys are both valuable tools for the conservator, which aid planning and direction of resources. These complementary techniques have something to offer each other in terms of interpreting and planning for preventive conservation issues, as well as understanding collection deterioration in terms of synergistic factors. The problems of inferring a relationship between risks and collection condition are manifold, but the integration of risk assessments and condition data can help reduce some of these problems by the creation of a relationship between these assessments. The field of visual perception illustrates the similarities and differences between expected and observable deterioration and how seemingly conflicting approaches have been integrated. By doing this, potential problems of both can be reduced, and the data of each given greater context and meaning.

Basing judgments about mitigation on empirical evidence, where it exists, allows the conservator to allocate resources effectively and avoid overand underestimation of risks, discussed by Waller (2003). Also, the synergistic effects of various hazards may also be recognized, since there will be a connection between the kinds of risk and the kinds of damage. This connection does not exist in either of the individual methods.

Risk assessment gives condition data a framework for interpretation that provides meaning and context to observation. Condition surveys alone have a very limited predictive value (Waller 2002, 2003), and risk assessment provides that—independent of past damage that may affect the survey.

Decisions based on risk assessment have the benefit of projection that Waller (2002) advocates, and many potential difficulties of projecting deterioration from past damage alone are avoided. Judgments cannot be evaluated entirely by outcomes, as Waller (2002) points out, but collection condition does have a role to play in assessing all types of risk.


Gratitude goes to Amber Xavier-Rowe and Claire Smith (English Heritage) for their application of these ideas, discussions, and development of the database; Frances Halahan, Jennifer Dinsmore, and Sophie Budden (Halahan Associates) for carrying out the assessments and discussions; David Watkinson (Cardiff University) and Jonathan Ashley-Smith for discussions and comments on drafts; May Cassar (UCL, Centre for Sustainable Heritage) and Dermot Taylor and Geraldine Taylor for comments on drafts; and the editorial team for their comments.

Copyright 2005 American Institution for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works