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Preservation Consulting
Consulting is provided on the following topics:

Preservation information is provided on the condition, storage and treatment of artworks and historic artifacts. This can be as simple as consulting over the phone or it could involve on-site visits.

Environmental Surveys for conservation grant justification can range from detailed to an overview; see below.  The environment includes light levels, temperature and relative humidity, fire and water issues; as distinct from the collections stored or displayed in spaces. 

Cold Storage of B&W film, color film and A/V materials using either walk-in vaults or (the inexpensive) stand-alone upright freezer. An in-depth essay on cold storage advantages and options can be found at Report on Cold Storage.

Wireless environmental monitoring systems are recommended for gathering environmental data used in the day-to-day management of specific environments or for setting-up systems that generate environmental data to be used in grant submissions aimed at improving environmental systems. The scope ranges from simple equipment selection to actual installation and testing of monitors or systems. Having installed several systems, we have extensive knowledge of wireless and walk-and-log systems.

Digital Imaging recommendations are based on what is possible in the face of continuous improvements in equipment and methodologies. We specialize in presenting the best techniques and equipment for a project or application at your site. Staff training can range from individualized hands-on sessions using cameras or scanners, to group sessions on the value of using digital surrogates for advancing preservation and access. 

Electronic Media preservation consulting includes up to date assessments of in-house versus service bureau driven preservation strategies; recommendations for audio, video and imaging equipment selection; and assistance with A/V preservation studio design and staff planning. New video capture technologies make in-house archival migration of historic video tape possible; see thee VideoPreservation Website.

Collection Surveys
We have extensive experience conducting surveys for museums, libraries, archives, historic houses and private collections. Depending on the focus of the survey, results can evaluate the overall state of an institution’s collection, or, they can focus on understanding the range of artifact-condition and storage variables.

Effective preservation planning usually starts from a survey that identifies strengths and weaknesses. In addition, surveys are often required in grant submissions for environmental system upgrades, storage improvements (cold storage or compact shelving) and even the simple rehousing project.

There are two fundamental types of surveys: collection-level and item-level. Our clients, however, tell us that the most valuable surveys are those that included both institution-wide assessments of collection preservation and evaluations of individual artifacts. 

Collection-level surveys focus on the building, staff, environment (temperature and relative humidity), storage furniture and materials, display techniques, artifact handling procedures, fire and water issues, pest management procedures and disaster preparedness. The process can usually be done in a few days of on-site analysis with another week of phone interviews, research and report writing. The goal of this type of survey is to identify the current state of the collection, and then to define the factors that contribute to that state of preservation. The factors are then prioritized so they can be address from the most critical, to the least.

Item-level surveys generally take 3-10 days of on-site evaluation, depending on the scope and complexity. The goal is to access individual artifacts for a) type, b) condition and c) individual storage environments. A scaled assessment of each artifact examined is made so that a picture of the whole can be constructed by analyzing the state of individuals examined. In addition, each individual item can be examined as a line in the survey spreadsheet. Item-level surveys are done using a database spreadsheet so that the statistics can be accumulated, analyzed and reported in a concise manner. A final report summarizes the results and uses the accumulated statistics to uncover strengths and weaknesses. Predictions of future outcome can be made by projecting average artifact condition, in existing storage conditions, through time. This is especially relevant to color photographs, color film, acetate base film and nitrate base film where cold storage is a very useful tool. For extensive reports on the identification, evaluation and storage of historic film see: Report on Cellulose Acetate Film and Report on Cellulose Nitrate Film.

The combination survey has wide value to institutions because it involves a careful integration of "collection-level" assessment along with “item-level” evaluations of specific and randomly sampled artifacts. The most cost-effect method for the item-level survey component is directed by the supervising staff, so that critical collections are included in the survey. However, the largest component in an item-level survey is generated using randomly sampled evaluations of numerous small segments of the collection. The sample size usually ranges from 1%, for large institutions, up to 3-10% for smaller collections. The random sample methodology is critical to the process because evaluating a full collection is impossible. Random selection of individual items, groups of items or sub-collections allows for a representative evaluation of artifacts without having to see each artifact. The art of the process is to uncover the problems and successes, while also focusing on the collection components that are critical to the mission of the institution.