Articles, Preservation

Identifying Plastics

I attended a session on Plastics today during the virtual AIC Annual Meeting, the professional association for conservators and preservation specialists. Netherland conservators Carien van Aubel and Olivia van Rooijen introduced the Plastic Identification Tool, an absolutely fantastic resource to aid inventory and condition assessment of collections.

Libraries, archives, museums and private collections may have a wide range of materials, each with their own methods of self-destruction and concomittant special storage and exhibit needs. Artworks, textiles, furniture, artifacts – all may have plastic components which may not have been identified during accession and which need to be assessed and monitored for deterioration. Some varieties of plastic can extremely vulnerable to damage from light, temperature and humidity, and may require very specific preservation strategies and housings to mitigate damage to the object itself or to nearby artifacts. Damage may present as color change, odor, sticky or pooling plasticizers, or changes in flexibility. An objects conservator may be required to accurately identify materials and conservation priorities, but a preservation consultant (like me!) can assist in developing and carrying out a condition survey.

Articles, New technologies

Testing a New Environmental Monitoring Product

I’ve been invited to test a new plug and play datalogger and gateway set from The 2 loggers and the gateway are seen unboxed here. It was incredibly easy to set up – just plug in the gateway to the electrical outlet, pull the tabs on the loggers. Done. The set automatically starts transmitting data which can be tracked on the web-based app, optimized for any platform and for tablet, laptop and mobile devices. The system does not require wifi or ethernet to transmit information, but does require access to the internet to access the data. Your internet access does not have to be in the same location as the loggers and gateway. Pretty simple and easy for remote monitoring.

These loggers track temperature, relative humidity, light and vibration. The software is easy and intuitive to use, developed in consultation with conservators. I’ve only had it set up in my studio for a week but so far so good!


Press Release: Covid-19 Resource Hub

The Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF), a public-private partnership between FEMA and the Smithsonian Institution, has published a COVID-19 Resource Hub, a web portal to an array of resources that can help the cultural heritage and creative communities respond to and recover from the pandemic. Resources have been grouped under the following categories:

  • Federal and Global Guidance
  • Dashboards for Situational Awareness
  • Guidance on Funding Your Organization’s Recovery
  • Funder Support of the Heritage Community
  • Collections Care During a Pandemic
  • Resources for Museums
  • Resources for Archives
  • Resources for Libraries
  • Resources for Artists and Arts Organizations
  • Resources for Historic Properties, Sites, and Organizations
  • Resources for Indian Country
  • Resources for Emergency Managers
  • Resources for Extension Educators
  • Preparing for the Next Pandemic

Bookmark this page, which will be updated frequently as new information is made available:

coronavirus illustration
Articles, Uncategorized

How to prepare your business for Covid-19

This is an excellent video put out by the Event Safety Allliance on March 4th, 2020. It provides guidance on 8 things to do right now to sustain your cultural organization or business and keep your staff and patrons safe.

8 things:

  1. Develop a business continuity plan that covers mass gatherings, following local government guidance. This plan should include pre-outbreak planning, plans for when the threat is present but not local, and what to do when the threat is local, and post-event evaluation and revision of the plan.
    • Categorize employees and tasks which are mission critical, who has time-sensitive projects, and who can or cannot work remotely
    • Consider moving elderly or immune-compromised staff or volunteers away from public-facing jobs
    • Delineate remote work and how to do it. Maybe now is the time for some long-postponed website or online catalog work?
    • Create a flexible refund policy to encourage sick people not to attend events
    • Create an emergency action plan if an event has to be canceled or if you have to close.
      • Who to call? Phone tree
      • Can event or exhibit be enjoyed remotely?
      • What is your event cancellation insurance?
  2. Communicate with key stakeholders
    • Develop a statement on what you plan to say about your actions, how you are going to handle social distancing, what your messaging will be around managing sick staff or patrons. There’s a great example of this at 37:01 on the video.
    • Will you post a sign at the entrance requesting that sick people not attend events? Will you ask coughing, sneezing feverish people to leave to protect others?
    • Create a culture of permission to call in sick and examine ability to increase paid time off.
  3. Create a situational awareness process
    • Designate one person to monitor the situation by staying up-to-date on current information and vetting it’s accuracy through sources such as Johns Hopkins, CDC and WHO as well as local governance and staff/volunteer wellness and stress.
  4. Check supply chains
    • Know where your supplies come from, identify which are critical and plan for what you will do if you cannot obtain them
  5. Promote good health habits
    • Increase cleaning schedules and follow CDC guidelines
  6. Assessment of company travel policies
  7. Review business continuity plan for the long-term
    • Ensure that IT department and infrastructure can handle increase in remote work
    • Ensure that collections and building can be monitored for security and environmental changes
    • Ensure staff and patron safety through social distancing procedures
  8. Inventory personal protection supplies
Articles, Preservation

KonMarie taking over the world – even in LAMs!

The KonMarie method is taking over the world and here is a funny take on applying it to LAMs (libraries, archives, museums), with a few great questions to ask about objects, supplies, equipment, staff and board members, not to mention that drawer in which you keep a jumble of … who knows what. Do you want to take this into the future? Does it serve you or the organization? Do you even have a weeping closet?

Link: Does This Board Member Bring You Joy?


MAM CARES Workshop, March 23, 2018

I am so pleased to participate in this innovated IMLS-funded project created by the Missoula Art Museum. If you are part of a cultural organization in Montana, please consider signing up for my workshop and the conversation.  Here for more information.


From the MAM website:

Launched with a $25,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, CARES (Catalyzing Access, Research, and Education Solutions) will determine the potential for community and statewide collaborations in collections-driven research, education, storage, preservation, and conservation efforts, and inform the conceptual design of a MAM collections center in Missoula.

In fall 2017, MAM received a prestigious $25,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) program, Museums for America. Only 24% of applications to this highly competitive program were funded, placing MAM in the national ranks of 138 projects that support the IMLS goal to to connect communities to their artistic and cultural resources. IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew says, “As centers of learning and catalysts of community change, libraries and museums connect people with programs, services, collections, information, and new ideas in the arts, sciences, and humanities. They serve as vital spaces where people can connect with each other.”

Montana has a rich history, and its institutions hold important collections of artwork, documents, and archival materials. However, many of the state’s museums and libraries are experiencing shrinking capacity as collections continue to grow. CARES will determine the potential for collaborations in collections-driven research and inform the conceptual design of a MAM collections center in Missoula.

Project Director Brandon Reintjes says, “Museums and libraries tend to develop and expend resources independently. However, there are significant opportunities for us to collaborate with our colleagues throughout the state, specifically in regards to collections. We’re extremely proud to have received this important national grant.” Nearly $22,000 of the total grant will stay in Montana communities and provide direct benefits for Montanans, including training stipends and new access to much-needed resources.

Denver-based book and paper conservator Beth Heller to Missoula to provide training to statewide museum and library staff. Local experts also contributing to the project include consulting architect Warren Hampton, Mansfield Library Head of Archives and Special Collections Donna McCrae, and Sue Near, a 35-year veteran of collections and administration at the Montana Historical Society. Their efforts will benefit an estimated 50 staff from institutions across the state, and by their efforts, help the public to enjoy, study, and understand our cultural collections.

CARES Activities

  • Statewide Collection Assessment
    In fall 2017, MAM contacted the directors of more than 230 Montana museums, libraries, and archives with a request to participate in a survey to identify significant needs, challenges, and opportunities. MAM will post the analysis prepared by conservator Beth Heller in early 2018.
  • Events
    MAM invites artists, collectors, community members, educators in K-12 and higher education, staff and volunteers of museums, libraries, archives and other cultural heritage organizations to help determine how a new collection facility can spark interdisciplinary collaborations, enhance access to scholarship and educational resources, and improve the care of cultural collections. Workshop seating is limited and registration is required.

    Limited travel funds are available for participants who attend a workshop and charrette scheduled for the same day.

    • March 23
      Preservation of Books and Paper Workshop
      , Friday, March 23, 9 a.m. – noon: Presented by Beth Heller Conservation of Denver, CO. Beth will focus on care of books, historic and archival documents, and works of art on paper. MAM thanks Archival Methods and University Products for donating sample materials for workshop participants. Register for this workshop! Please fill out the registration form and email it to Lily Scott.

      Conservation and Preservation Design Charrette, Friday, March 23, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.How can a new facility improve the long-term care of art, documents, and other cultural materials? Register for this event! Please fill out the registration form and email it to Lily Scott.

    • April 23
      Research and Education Design Charrette: Monday, April 23, 9 a.m. – noon: How can a new facility meet the needs of K-12 and higher education? What are opportunities for collaborating to generate new research and educational materials? Please fill out the registration form and email it to Lily Scott.
    • May 11
      Introduction to Archive Management,
      Friday, May 11, 9 a.m. – noon: Donna McCrea, Head of Archives and Special Collections, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, University of Montana, will introduce policies and procedures, and cover topics such as identifying and organizing physical and digital archival material, best practices for storage and handling, and options for providing access to internal and external users. Register for this workshop! Please fill out the registration form and email it to Lily Scott.

      Physical and Digital Storage Design Charrette: Friday, May 11, 1 – 4 p.m.: How can a new facility improve the security of cultural collections in Missoula and across the state? How can it support collaborations that make digital information more accessible? Register for this event! Please fill out the registration form and email it to Lily Scott.

(Image: Jacob Lawrence, Seattle Arts Festival, Bumbershoot’76, screen print, MAM Collection, gift of J. Scott Patnode in honor of Stephen Glueckert, 2017.)

art conservation, Articles, Preservation

Emergency CAP Assessments are now available for institutions in federally declared disaster areas

As a CAP Collections Assessor, I am available to assist you. Please read the information below and apply for the program as directed.  This is a terrific resource that will help you assess the damage and develop a plan for moving forward.

Press Release:

The Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (FAIC) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) announce availability of Emergency Collections Assessment for Preservation support. Based on the existing Collections Assessment for Preservation (CAP) program, the Emergency CAP will help collecting institutions in federally declared disaster areas receive post-disaster collections care recommendations from conservation and building professionals on an expedited basis.

 Emergency CAPs follow the general guidelines of the Collections Assessment for Preservation program, with the following exceptions:

  • Only museums affected by recent federally-declared disasters are eligible.
  • Museums of any size are eligible for an Emergency CAP. Small and mid-sized museums will receive a general conservation assessment. Larger museums will receive a review of preservation/conservation plans for the structure and/or those parts of their collections which have been damaged by the emergency or disaster.
  • Assessor allocations for Emergency CAPs range from $3500-$4900 per assessor, based on institutional budget, need, and available funds.
  • Applications for Emergency CAPs are reviewed immediately upon receipt. Applicants are typically notified of their status within two weeks of application.
  • Program schedules and deadlines are determined by each institution and its team of assessors, subject to approval by FAIC. All program activities must occur within one year of notification of program acceptance.

Museums include, but are not limited to, aquariums, arboretums, art museums, botanical gardens, children’s/youth museums, general museums, historic houses/sites, history museums, natural history/anthropology museums, nature centers, planetariums, science/technology centers, and zoological parks.

Limited funding is available. Eligible museums interested in receiving an Emergency CAP assessment should contact Tiffani Emig, CAP Program Coordinator, at 202-750-3346 or for additional information.

Articles, Preservation

Collections Assessment for Preservation (CAP) Program

I’m pleased to announce that I am a Conservation Collections Assessor for the CAP Program.

The Collections Assessment for Preservation (CAP) Program “provides small and mid-sized museums with partial funding toward a general conservation assessment. The assessment is a study of all of the institution’s collections, buildings, and building systems, as well as its policies and procedures relating to collections care. Participants who complete the program receive an assessment report with prioritized recommendations to improve collections care. CAP is often a first step for small institutions that wish to improve the condition of their collections.”

To learn more, or to apply, visit

12-07 019
Don’t worry – many collections spaces resort to this! CAP can help!


Emergency Salvage Response App from Heritage Preservation

Wondering what to do when your treasures get wet? Here’s a handy Emergency Response and Salvage app from Heritage Preservation:

Scrolling down from the screen shown below, you can select from a list of object types, including books and paper, framed art, photographs, textiles, stone, metal, furniture, and so on. Here is what you are shown if you select books and paper:

If rinsing is necessary, hold book closed.
Partially wet or damp:
Stand on top or bottom edge with covers opened to 90-degree angle.
Air dry.
Very wet:
Lay flat on clean surface.
Interleave less than 20% of book with absorbent material.
Replace interleaving when damp.
If too many books to air dry in 48 hours:
Wrap in freezer or waxed paper.
Pack spine down in sturdy containers.
Air dry flat as individual sheets or small piles up to 1/4″. Interleave; replace interleaving when damp.
Do not unfold or separate individual wet sheets.
If too many items for air drying
Interleave (by groups or individually) with freezer or waxed paper.
Pack papers or files supported and standing up in sturdy containers; pack containers only 90% full.


Saving Family Treasures: Press Release from Heritage Preservation

For Immediate Release

September 13, 2013


For Information Contact:

Lori Foley

(781) 259-8652



Advice for Saving Damaged Family Treasures

Follow these steps to halt further damage

As the threat of flash flooding persists in Colorado, residents in affected towns and cities are being urged to seek higher ground. When the flooding ends, residents will begin the long journey of recovery. With homes flooded and lives upended, treasured possessions such as family heirlooms, photos, and other keepsakes become more cherished. Unless they are contaminated by sewage or chemicals, these treasures can be saved. The Heritage Emergency National Task Force, a coalition of 42 national organizations and federal agencies co-sponsored by FEMA and Heritage Preservation, offers these basic guidelines from professional conservators for individuals who discover their family treasures have been damaged:

  • Safety First! With any disaster there may be health risks. Wear long sleeves, sturdy shoes, and plastic or rubber gloves during cleanup. Protective gear such as goggles and a fitted face mask is recommended if there is mold.

  • Prevent Mold. Mold can form within 48 hours; you will need to work fast. The goal is to reduce the humidity and temperature around your treasures as you proceed to clean and dry them. If you do encounter extensive mold, use protective gear such as gloves, goggles, and an N100 face mask, available at most hardware stores.

  • Air-Dry. Gentle air-drying is best for all your treasured belongings—indoors, if possible. Hair dryers, irons, ovens, and prolonged exposure to sunlight will do irreversible damage. Increase indoor airflow with fans, open windows, air conditioners, and dehumidifiers.

  • Handle with Care. Use great caution in handling your heirlooms, which can be especially fragile when wet. Separate damp materials: remove the contents from drawers; take photographs out of damp albums; remove paintings and prints from frames; place paper towels between the pages of wet books.

  • Clean Gently. Loosen dirt and debris on fragile objects gently with soft brushes and cloths. Avoid rubbing, which can grind in dirt.

  • Salvage Photos. Clean photographs by rinsing them carefully in clean water. Air-dry photos on a plastic screen or paper towel, or by hanging them by the corner with plastic clothespins. Don’t let the image come into contact with other surfaces as it dries.

  • Prioritize. You may not be able to save everything, so focus on what’s most important to you, whether for historic, monetary, or sentimental reasons.

  • Can’t Do It All? Damp objects and items that cannot be dealt with immediately should be put in open, unsealed boxes or bags. Photos, papers, books, and textiles should be frozen if you can’t get them dry within 48 hours.

  • Call in a Pro. If a precious item is badly damaged, a conservator may be able to help. Be sure to collect broken pieces. Set your treasure aside in a well-ventilated room until you find professional help. If a precious item has been exposed to contaminated water, seek a conservator’s advice on salvaging it; your health and safety, and that of your loved ones, is of utmost importance. To locate a conservator, click on the “Find a Conservator” box on the home page of the American Institute for Conservation,

A free, online video guide demonstrating how to rescue soaked photographs, books, documents, and other valued items is available from Heritage Preservation. This 10-minute streaming video provides professional advice that benefits families as well as museum and library staff. View and link to the video at:

Additional resources for salvaging flood-damaged materials as well as a copy of this press release and the Task Force logo can be found here:

These recommendations are intended as guidance only. Neither the Heritage Emergency National Task Force nor its sponsors, Heritage Preservation and FEMA, assumes responsibility or liability for treatment of damaged objects.



Heritage Preservation ( is a national non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the cultural heritage of the United States. By identifying risks, developing innovative programs, and providing broad public access to expert advice, Heritage Preservation assists museums, libraries, archives, organizations, and individuals in caring for our endangered heritage.


Heritage Preservation is co-sponsor with the Federal Emergency Management Agency of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, a partnership of 42 national service organizations and federal agencies created to protect cultural heritage from the damaging effects of natural disasters and other emergencies.