RISK ASSESSMENT OF COLLECTIONS IN EXHIBITIONS AT THE CANADIAN MUSEUM OF NATURE
GARNET MUETHING, ROBERT WALLER, & FIONA GRAHAM
4 HOW WE USE THE RESULTS (RISK MANAGEMENT)
The quantification and ranking of risks to the collection on display at the VMMB provided strong arguments for including conservation criteria in the plans for a major renovation to the building. This renovation is intended to resolve health and safety issues in the building as well as improve the functionality of the site for contemporary museum operations. One of the project's objectives is to “facilitate the intention of the CMN to make greater use of more collections materials including specimens, artifacts and works of art, at the VMMB, and to increase access to collections for visitors, students, and researchers by providing improved facilities for safe and efficient receiving, handling, storage, display, and programme and research use of collections materials” (VMMBRP 2001, chap. 3:5). Clearly, the renovation will have to address the current risks in order to meet this objective.
The CPRAM, like any risk assessment approach (Apostolakis 2004) informs but does not dictate preventive conservation and facility planning processes. Thus, specifications for protective systems, whether security, climate control or other, might be more rigorous than would be dictated by the results of a single risk assessment.
As a result of the risk assessment, the case for complete control of artificial and natural light throughout the exhibition spaces was easily made. The need to isolate live plant and animal spaces from the rest of the collection areas seems obvious. Particulate filtration requirements were underlined. Fire protection and security were emphasized. Careful plumbing layout was highlighted. Detailed conservation criteria for these and other elements were provided in the functional program in the early phases of planning. Throughout the design and development phase, a comprehensive understanding of the current risks to the collection informed plans for the renovated building. As construction begins, guidelines for contractors are being developed that reflect the need to manage a number of risks including fire, theft, dust, and physical forces. Conservation expertise is also being integrated into the exhibition development process to mitigate many of the identified risks.
All those who are involved in the renovation project are aware of the collection preservation priorities. This was facilitated by presenting the results of the risk assessment to a wide selection of CMN divisions. Conservation staff delivered brief presentations outlining the results and priorities as a means of broadcasting the preservation message. Individuals with different duties were able to see where they could impact the preservation of collections, whether for better or for worse. The response was very positive, with many questions and discussions arising from the presentations. Employees are applying this new awareness and knowledge to their work in various areas of the museum, including the renovation project. The information from the risk assessment has also been worked into other training sessions that the Conservation Section offers to groups of staff and volunteers.