Sunday, February 15, 2009

Assignment 4: Disaster Preparedness Plans - Comparison between Museum & Library

Recent events, such as September 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina, and the major floods in Iowa, have reinforced the fact that no structure is immune to natural or man-made disasters. For museums, archives, and libraries--charged with maintaining and preserving our nation's heritage--this message is an unavoidable challenge. Institutions of all natures are called upon to develop and implement disaster preparedness plans that: 1) ensure the safety of human occupants; and 2) prevent, mitigate, and respond to all manner of threats to collection materials.

Fruitless searching for specific museum disaster plans revealed a distinct demarcation between Museum and Library websites in terms of the amount of information offered about their "behind-the-scenes" operations. While some museum websites, such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the MoMA, and others, host sections devoted to their conservation departments, these typically highlight high-profile treatments or general background information about conservation topics.

In contrast to this state of affairs, libraries, particularly large university or other research institutions, frequently provide detailed information pertaining to preservation and conservation philosophies, as well as specific guidelines and protocols for different types of treatments, including disaster plans.

To be sure, no shortage of general information about disaster preparedness for museums exists. It is more than likely that most museums, in order to fulfill their culturally-determined mandates, as well as to meet insurance and legal stipulations, have carefully-considered disaster plans in place. But perhaps due to different attitudes or expectations concerning museums and libraries, the former curates its public information far more selectively than the latter

Selected list of excellent online resources for disaster preparedness in cultural institutions:

Museum SOS
Smithsonian Museum Conservation
Smithsonian Institution Archives
Heritage Preservation

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Assignment 3: Notes from Initial Visit to Suida-Manning Papers at Blanton Museum

Date: 2/2/2009
Location: Museum Archives, The Blanton Museum
Purpose: Meet to discuss preservation needs assessment for Suida-Manning Collection

Sue Ellen Jeffers, Museum Registrar, Blanton Museum
Elizabeth Seramur, Student, School of Information
Elspeth Healey, Student, School of Information



Q: What does custodian hope to achieve in terms of the collection?

A: Ideally, SEJ would like to establish some degree of intellectual and physical control over the collection, making the materials available to researchers. With respect to the preservation needs assessment, this process could lay the groundwork for future archival processing by determining whether any hazardous conditions exist, the amount of materials needed for rehousing, and the types of materials present. SEJ does not anticipate allocating funds for conservation treatment beyond rehousing activities. Some rehousing may be done by undergraduate work study, or graduate archives students.

Q: What is the size and scope of the collection?
A: The collection materials currently occupy the following :

13 Metal Filing Cabinets:

  • 12 four-drawer metal filing cabinets measuring 15 in x 25 in x 52 in
  • 1 four-drawer cabinet measuring 18 in x 29½ in x 52 in

38 Flat Metal Edge boxes:

  • 25 x 17 x 21 x 3 in
  • 6 21 x 25 x 3 in
  • 4 15¼ x 11¾ x 3 in
  • 2 19 x 25 x 3 in
  • 1 15 x 19 x 3 in
Original Letter Boxes and additional material on shelving:
  • 42 in x 88 in x 16 in shelving
  • 42 inc x 35 in x 16 in (minus half a shelf)

According to SEJ, collection is made up of approximately 50% photographic materials (prints, glass lantern slides, etc.; most appear to be black-and-white, possible non-photographic photomechanical reproduction techniques observed, pending identification) and 50% manuscript materials (correspondence, notes, etc.). Collection appears to comprise a mixture personal and professional records for William Suida (1877-1959) , his daughter Bertina Suida Manning (d.1992), and her husband Robert Manning (d. 1996) including historical materials dating back to the 19th Century. Languages in evidence so far include English, French, and German.

Q: What are the evident current conditions/possible areas of concern?

A: Most of the materials were transferred from cardboard boxes to metal filing cabinets and flat, metal edge manuscript boxes. Some materials remain in original housings such as cardboard boxes and leather folders. SEJ destroyed obviously moldy materials upon accessioning, but some moldy materials may exist. Conditions range from crammed in and overstuffed to falling over due to excess space. Dust is also a problem, particularly with respect to the glass lantern slides. Overall climate appears to be controlled.

Q: What supplies will we need?

A: Gloves for handling photos and potentially moldy items, respirator/mask for dealing with possible mold spores, compressed air for dusting, microspatula for separating pages, measuring tape, and a loupe. Additionally, sticky notes will be necessary to identify materials numerically.

Q: Where will we be working regularly?

A: SEJ has a rolling cart which we can use to transport materials into the Museum Registrar's workspace, located in another room.

Assignment 2: Letter of Committment for Preservation Assessment of Suida-Manning Papers

February 3, 2009

Sue Ellen Jeffers, Registrar
Blanton Museum of Art
The University of Texas at Austin
1 University Station D1303
Austin, TX 78712
(512) 471-9203

RE: Letter of Commitment - Suida-Manning Papers Preservation Assessment

Dear Ms. Jeffers,

We, Lauren Algee, Beth Antoine, Elspeth Healey, and Elizabeth Seramur, request your permission to conduct a preservation assessment for the Suida-Manning Papers. We will design and employ a survey tool to analyze a representative sample of the collection materials. The assessment will generate quantitative and qualitative data regarding the types of materials included in the collection and their conditions. A formal report will summarize research findings and specify prioritized recommendations for the collection's preservation and housing needs, including suggested housing material purchases. These recommendations will lay the groundwork for future archival processing. In addition to receiving this written report, you will be invited to attend a presentation on May 5, 2009.

We commit to working for two hours each week, Monday afternoons from 2:00-4:00 PM. This schedule is tentative; we will notify you in advance of any changes.

Please contact us with any questions or concerns regarding our work schedule and project goals. We welcome your comments and look forward to working with you.


Lauren Algee
Beth Antoine
Elspeth Healey
Elizabeth Seramur