JAIC 2005, Volume 44, Number 3, Article 8 (pp. 245 to 257)
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 2005, Volume 44, Number 3, Article 8 (pp. 245 to 257)

PREVENTIVE CONSERVATION AND THE EXHIBITION PROCESS: DEVELOPMENT OF EXHIBIT GUIDELINES AND STANDARDS FOR CONSERVATION

TOBY J. RAPHAEL



5 POLLING OF COLLEAGUES

Before initiating the project to develop conservation guidelines and a plan for developing standards, dozens of colleagues involved in producing museum exhibitions and supplying conservation advice were informally surveyed. The findings of the survey revealed seriously conflicting viewpoints.

Nearly all of the conservation specialists interviewed expressed a belief that the exhibit processes that they were involved in did not adequately or systematically incorporate the preservation needs of the collections going onto display. Preservation specialists felt that they had the long-term picture in view, while the exhibit specialists focused on short-term use of collections. When polled, conservators indicated encountering several problems working with exhibit planners and designers, such as:

  • undervaluing the well-being of exhibited objects
  • continual design changes requiring the reinvention of conservation solutions
  • not learning from the previous exhibit conservation experiences
  • not including conservation specifications on drawings
  • resistance to producing mock-ups and prototypes

The poll indicated that many exhibit designers believed that conservation advice was given without regard for the project budget, and if accepted, often would compromise exhibit design and the exhibition's effectiveness. More specifically, when polled, exhibit planners and designers readily pointed to several problems with the conservation recommendations they were given:

  • inconsistent information and variation from conservator to conservator
  • information offered at inopportune times
  • limited communication skills and familiarity with design language
  • vague recommendations and unrealistic performance expectations
  • solutions and recommendations were too often untested
  • limited regard for financial consequences of recommendations

Obviously divergent viewpoints were not helping the exhibit process. Everyone surveyed knew the situation needed to be addressed.


Copyright 2005 American Institution for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works