The Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts, a nonprofit conservation-and-preservation facility, is launching a Collections Management Policy Toolkit. (Follow the Conservation Center on Facebook and/or Twitter to be informed of the release.) The Toolkit is a free online template that libraries, archives, museums, and similar cultural heritage organizations can use to create a comprehensive collection management policy. It is easy to use and can be edited to fit the needs of organizations large and small.
‘Good Collection Management Is Good Preservation Care’
Anastasia Matijkiw, the Conservation Center’s assistant director of preservation services, astutely points out, “Good collection management is good preservation care.” The American Alliance of Museums echoes this observation, identifying a collection management policy as a critical document “that supports the Collections Stewardship Core Standards.” Collection management policies detail the ways a cultural heritage organization cares for and governs its collections and articulates its commitment to professional best practices. Increasingly, granting agencies and accreditation panels are requiring institutions to have a collection management policy, and yet many libraries, archives, and museums lack them.
Resources such as the book Things Great and Small: Collections Management Policies by John E. Simmons exist, and, arbitrarily, some institutions publish their institutional collection management policies online. However, the Toolkit stands out as a resource because it simplifies the process of writing a collection management policy and eliminates the need for organizations to reinvent the wheel when drafting local policies. Matijkiw comments, “I think this is very much filling a void for collection management policies. … It empowers organizations to do it themselves and gives them that push to ask all the right questions to make a comprehensive policy.”
Matijkiw and colleagues designed the Toolkit with user experience in mind. She describes the Toolkit’s approach as something between Mad Libs and a choose-your-own-adventure story. The Toolkit is organized into 11 sections, each with a series of questions specifically worded so responses later map into a fully written policy narrative. Users can work on sections in any order, save work as they progress, and return to update sections. Matijkiw remarked that early testers completed sections at varying speeds based on their institution’s readiness. “Depending on the section, it could take between fifteen to forty-five minutes” for users to complete a segment, but longer if a team of colleagues collaborated or if an organization had to consider a practice or procedure for the first time.
At the outset, users are prompted to create an institutional account and assign users roles: Administrators with full permissions or Editors with limited read/write permissions. The number of account users is unlimited, so teams can collaborate to develop policies and access them electronically after completion.
A Look at the Toolkit’s Sections
The following is a quick look at each of the Toolkit’s sections.
Introduction: This section captures basic information about the organization, the personnel responsible for collection management, and a general overview of the creation and aims of the policy.
Mission and Collections: This section covers an organization’s mission statement, describes the scope of its collecting mission, and articulates its collection access policies.
Acquisitions and Accessions: This section details an organization’s collecting criteria, acquisition policies, accessions procedures, and methods of acquisition.
Deaccessions and Disposal: This section covers processes and policies relating to the disposal of deaccessioned items, local abandoned property regulations, criteria for deaccessioning, and personnel with the authority to deaccession items from an organization’s collection.
Incoming Loans: This section documents an organization’s procedures and policies dealing with incoming loans, including the approval process, terms and conditions, and policies relating to long-term loans.
Outgoing Loans: This section covers an organization’s procedures and policies dealing with outgoing loans, including guidelines for the duration of loans, the loan approval process, and requirements for borrowers.
Documentation: This section outlines how an organization documents collection records, its systems for maintaining catalog data, and its policies relating to inventories.
Collection Care: This section details policies and procedures that outline the handling of objects and preservation of collections, along with notes on personnel with collection care responsibilities.
Insurance and Risk Management: This section collects information on an organization’s insurance program, disaster preparedness/response plans, and risk management policies.
Access and Usage: This section outlines the processes and terms on how staff and public users access collections.
Intellectual Property: This section details guidelines for the photography, digitization, publication, and reproduction of collection items.
Click and Create
When an organization’s team completes the 11-section questionnaire and submits the data, the Toolkit instantly generates a completed collection management policy from the information provided. The policy is in narrative format, organized by the 11 core sections, and is about 35 pages long. Users can then download the completed document as a PDF or choose to first edit it in Google Docs before saving a fine-tuned version.
The Conservation Center secured funding from IMLS to develop the Toolkit and provides users with unlimited access to their Toolkit account for 1 year at no cost. Institutions that wish to store policy and template data on the Conservation Center’s site beyond a year may do so for an annual subscription fee of $12. The Conservation Center offers organizations that need additional assistance two fee-based consultation options: The Conservation Center will review a single section of the Toolkit for up to 1 hour of consultation time ($150), and staffers are available for a full policy review for up to 5 hours of consultation time ($500).
Conservation Center and Its Other Services
The Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts was founded in 1977 by a paper conservator and offers physical treatment services for paper-based collection materials as well as a range of preservation-related consultation services, workshops, and digitization services. The Conservation Center is located in Philadelphia and works with libraries, archives, museums, and private clients across the U.S.
The author wishes to thank Anastasia Matijkiw, assistant director of preservation services at the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts, for her interview.