|ICCROM-CCI course on preventive conservation: reducing risks to collections
- CCI (Canadian Conservation Institute)
- ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property)
In cooperation with:
- ICN (Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage)
- CMN (Canadian Museum of Nature)
Duration: 2 weeks (16 to 27 October 2006)
Place: Ottawa, Canada
Twenty participants from thirteen countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Finland, France, Mexico, Poland, Romania, United Kingdom, USA and Viet Nam. They represented a range of heritage and conservation professions dealing mainly with collections in museums, galleries, libraries and archives.
The purpose of the course was to discuss and practice the risk management approach to the management of cultural property. Risk management can be understood as not only the management of rare catastrophes, but also the management of slow continual hazards, and everything in between. At the core of risk management is the concept of “loss of value,” which depends on the concept of the value of the collections. Thus risk management becomes an integrated institutional view of both the use and the conservation of cultural property. It provides a reliable tool to establish priorities and design strategies. The course focused on the principles of risk management in the field of cultural property, and reviewed current interpretations and applications. It examined the best available research to enhance estimates of risk. Participants practiced the systematic stages of risk management in teams, from risk assessment of a real museum collection to development of options for risk mitigation.
At the end of the course, participants were expected to be able to see preventive conservation from the viewpoint of risk management. Given a context, they should be able to use appropriately the terminology, and to identify, estimate and rank specific risks relevant to their context. Participants should also have improved their ability to communicate risks effectively, and to develop and assess options to treat risks. Since risk management is in a formative phase in the heritage conservation field, as well as in other fields, course participants were expected to make plans for its application and further development in their own context.
The course consisted of interactive, participatory sessions, both theoretical and practical, including illustrated lectures, practical individual and group work, seminars, discussions, case histories, and study visits. The course structure and terminology were based on those of the risk management process presented in the Australian and New Zealand Standard for Risk Management, the most widely internationally accepted document and the basis for the forthcoming ISO standard on risk management.
Unit 1 – Establish the context
Following an induction session that included a presentation about ICCROM, the first unit of the course dealt with concepts of risk, risk management in other fields, risk management within national policies and institutional missions, and mapping systems within institutions. Interactive sessions were dedicated to establishing a network of linked causes and effects that “explain” risks to collections, and to map the universe of risks from rare and sporadic events to slow and continuous damaging processes.
Unit 1 included also a mini-conference on ‘Selecting and Communicating Conservation Priorities’, where all course participants and resource persons presented and discussed topics of conflicting priorities, scattered collections, choice between options, preventive conservation, risk management case studies, and lessons in communication, within their own professional and institutional contexts. The unit was concluded by specifying the framework and defining scopes for risk management concerning the case-study participants worked on throughout the course: the Bytown Museum in downtown Ottawa. This included the study of detailed documentation on the museum policy, administration, facilities and collections, kindly provided by the museum direction.
Unit 2 – Identify risks
In this unit participants were introduced to and provided with practical tools to identify risks to collections in a comprehensive way. Those tools included list tools (checklists, indexes), concept tools (based on levels of enclosure, nested enclosures, agents of deterioration, risk control stages, etc.), and hybrid tools using lists within conceptual structures, such as structured surveys based on visible (site features at different enclosure levels) and invisible information (such as documents and interviews). Participants then had the opportunity to carry out in situ risk identification at the Bytown museum using such tools. In this practical session participants worked individually to survey the museum in order to identify specific risks to its collection. They also had the opportunity to ask the museum curator about several topics of relevance to the identification of risks. Once this site visit and survey was concluded, participants were divided into three groups and each group was asked to present six specific risks identified during the survey.
Unit 3 – Analyze risks
This unit started with the introduction of an important element to the successful analysis of risks: writing meaningful and unambiguous risk scenarios. Scenarios describe the chain from cause/source to consequence/loss of value associated to a specific risk that has been identified to a given collection. They include information on risk control and magnifying elements in place. Quantitative data as precise as possible are provided in scenarios to allow estimates of rates/likelihood of damaging processes/events, as well as of the extent of loss to collections those processes or events will cause within a given period of time. Throughout Unit 3 the three groups developed and refined scenarios for the specific risks they had identified concerning the Bytown museum collections.
In order to illustrate and to practice the use of quantitative information in writing risk scenarios, as well as to discuss current opportunities and challenges related to the acquisition of that kind of information, a series of illustrated lectures, discussions, group exercises, and role playing was carried out on the following topics:
- material science and vulnerability to incorrect RH, light, and pollutants;
- cultural heritage values and conservation;
- loss in value;
- statistics and historical records of risks;
- making deductions from evidence of damage.
Unit 4 – Evaluate risks
The unit started with an introduction to the different types of scales used to calculate the magnitude of risks in other fields such as environment, health, security, etc. The two existing dedicated scales for the calculation of magnitude of risks in the cultural heritage field, ABC scales (Michalski, 2006) and ratio scales (Waller, CPRAM, 2003) were then presented and practiced. Following a session in which the issue of uncertainty in calculating risks was illustrated and discussed, participants regrouped to calculate the magnitude of the risks they had identified in the Bytown museum using the two dedicated scales. Each group was asked to select two out of their six risk scenarios for the museum, and to apply the scales to calculate the magnitude of risk associated to each scenario. At the end of the session the results obtained by the three groups were grouped and discussed.
Unit 5 – Treat risks
This unit dealt with the development of options to treat risks to collections, including the critical analysis of those options in terms of costs, benefits, and associated risks. Participants continued with the group work to devise effective options to treat the risks they had identified and quantified concerning the collections of the Bytown museum. A study visit to the new storage facility of the Canadian Museum of Nature was organized with the purpose of showing a real-life, large-scale example of risk management applied to museum collections. A tour of the storage facility was given in which all mechanisms and elements purposely designed and implemented to treat previously identified risks were highlighted. A presentation on the motivations to adopt a risk management approach, on its managerial and practical implications, and on its benefits and limitations was given by the colleagues from the museum. The presentation was followed by discussion with participants.
Unit 6 – Communicate
In the last session of the course participants built upon the experience gained throughout the course to compile, edit, and share the results of the Bytown museum case-study with its managing staff. Results of the risk assessment carried out for the museum collection, as well as the options generated to treat those risks, were formally presented to and discussed with the ‘client’ in order to simulate a real life situation. A final wrap-up session on reflecting and planning for the future addressed participants’ evaluations of the entire course experience, as well as their ideas on how to use the risk management approach in their respective professional realities.
- Professional capacity-building: twenty professionals from thirteen countries have increased their knowledge and skills concerning the application of risk management to the preservation of collections;
- Networking: the international community of practice on reducing risks to collection has been reinforced through the inclusion of those twenty professionals who attended the course. The internet is currently being used to facilitate this network, courtesy of the Canadian Heritage Information Network, CHIN (members only). The course also provided a useful venue for professional networking in cultural heritage areas beyond risk management (e.g. with CCI and CMN staff);
- Final evaluation results: participant evaluations show very high levels of overall satisfaction with course coordination, themes, materials, lectures and study visits;
- Impact: teaching and other resource materials on risk management issues have been produced and are accessible; participants are expected to disseminate results and applications of the course through articles, presentations, reports and echo seminars, aimed at colleagues as well as other institutions and departments in their home countries.
23 November, 2007