Preventive Conservation

Report on the experience gained at the Workshop: Care of Cultural Collections and Risk Management


by Kosara Yovcheva  

SRAL The Conservation Institute – 14-16.06.2023

In mid-June, SRAL held a three-day workshop for Preventive Conservation. The workshop features informative lectures by Vinod David, Kate Seymour and Johanna Strombek, covering topics of great importance to professionals involved in the care of museum collections and cultural property. Key topics discussed included the importance of Prevention and Risk Management, as well as Monitoring in Cultural Institutions.

The workshop format comprised morning sessions dedicated to theoretical lectures, followed by practical sessions held in local museums during the afternoons. The event brought together a diverse group of fifteen individuals from various countries and professional backgrounds. The workshop was open to students, emerging professionals, and seasoned experts, all of them shared a common interest in enhancing their knowledge and skills in preserving the objects under their care. Witnessing individuals from different backgrounds all interested in the same topic was a joy.

The morning theory sessions provided a useful overview of the goals for Preventive and Interventive Conservation. The importance of Monitoring in Cultural Institutions enabled us to gain a better understanding of the Ten Agents that affect the long-term preservation of collections.

In preparation for the practical exercises in the afternoon, Kate Seymour provided an extensive explanation of technical concepts such as light, colour perception, the light sensitivity of objects, and worldwide illumination standards. We then went to the Bonnefanten museum where we split into two groups. Each group was equipped with the same tools, including Lux and UV meters, as well as a data logger. Our task was to examine different parts of the museum exhibition.

One group focussed on the permanent exhibition, while the other explored the temporary exhibition. We recorded data, creating graphs that depicted the Lux levels in each room and the specific locations of the paintings. We took note of the factors contributing to the Lux levels and assessed the overall condition of the rooms We presented our findings to the other participants and the instructors, and received valuable feedback in return.

On the afternoon of the third day, we visited the Natural History Museum, where we were generously granted access to their storage rooms and depot. This unique opportunity allowed us to apply the knowledge acquired during the morning theory session, specifically focussing on The Four Factors for Prevention of Insect Infestation.

During our visit, we conducted an overall evaluation of the museum’s depot and storage rooms. We assessed the existing conditions and identified areas where improvements could be made. Subsequently, we formulated a set of recommendations aimed at enhancing the overall preservation conditions of the museum.

The final two lectures concluded the workshop with insightful presentations on topics related to the field of conservation. Joanna Strombek enlightened us on the crucial aspects of Packing and Transporting of Paintings, while Kate Seymour shed light on Storage and Exhibition Management. We are grateful for the opportunity to learn about the essentials of Preventive Conservation and practice our learnings in a real environment. This workshop has provided us with sufficient knowledge and confidence, we now possess the tools necessary to develop effective preventive conservation plans within our respective institutions and areas of expertise.

Text: K. Yovcheva

Editing: A. Taylor


Special thanks to the Bonnefanten and the Natural History Museum of Maastricht


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