PREVENTIVE CONSERVATION AND THE EXHIBITION PROCESS: DEVELOPMENT OF EXHIBIT GUIDELINES AND STANDARDS FOR CONSERVATION
TOBY J. RAPHAEL
2 CONFLICTING RESPONSIBILITIES
Museum exhibition is where a collision can occur between conflicting responsibilities to not only preserve collections but to use them as well. Over the past century the mandates for preservation and use have been regarded as inherently incompatible. In other words, exhibition and the use of objects are at the opposite end of the spectrum from collections preservation. It is our goal to create another dynamic where use of collections does not necessarily conflict with their preservation in perpetuity. In recent years, progressive and innovative approaches have resulted in considerable advances, and exhibit conservation has taken root and is developing into a distinct specialty.
The goal of exhibit conservation is to design and produce preservation-friendly exhibits that attract and inform the public. After decades of exhibit experience we are convinced that the safe display of cultural material does not need to compromise sound design or informative interpretation. The perceived conflict of the past, the tension between preservation and use, can be alleviated or at least greatly diminished.
The overall challenge is to produce exhibitions that systematically integrate preservation criteria into the exhibit planning, design, and fabrication processes. A successful museum exhibit can fulfill its educational intent, be aesthetically engaging, and conscientiously protect the objects on display.