|ICCROM-CCI course on preventive conservation: reducing risks to collections
In collaboration with the CMN (Canadian Museum of Nature) and the National Museum of Belgrade, Diana Department for Preventive Conservation.
Duration: 3 weeks (18 June - 6 July 2007)
Place: Sibiu, Canada
Twenty two participants from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, China, Greece, Estonia, France, Hungary, Germany, Iran, Montenegro, Netherlands, Nigeria, Romania and United Kingdom.
The international course on Preventive Conservation - Reducing Risks to Collections, was co-organized by ICCROM, the Romanian Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs, and the ASTRA National Museum Complex in Sibiu, Romania, the European Capital of Cultural 2007.
This third course on the topic of Risk Management is an outcome of ICCROM partnership with the Canadian Conservation Institute and the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage. It also benefited from the collaboration of the Canadian Museum of Nature, the National Museum in Belgrade - Department for Preventive conservation 'Diana', the National Archives of Hungary, and other institutions.
The course focused on the discovery, discussion and practice of the concepts underlying 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' of cultural property. Thus risk management becomes an integrated institutional view of both the use and the conservation of heritage collections and sites.
The course examined the best available research to improve the assessment of all types of risks to cultural property. Studying a real museum collection and context, participants practiced each stage of the risk management cycle, from risk assessment to the development and planning of options to treat risks. The case study was the ASTRA open air museum of Traditional Folk Civilization in Dumbrava Sibiului, which combines architectural elements and collections related to traditional folk civilization in Romania. Such a context offered an opportunity and encouraged participants to have an integrated approach to tangible cultural heritage. Special consideration was given to the concerns of institutions with limited resources. Risk communication and teamwork were emphasized throughout the course.
At the end of the course, participants are expected to see preventive conservation from the viewpoint of risk management. Using a systematic approach, they are able to identify, analyse, and evaluate risks within their specific context. Participants are able to use the risk management terminology appropriately, and to communicate risks more effectively. They can develop and assess options to treat risks, and plan their implementation.
Follow-up is embedded in the course by allocating time for participants to propose and design a 'home project' to be carried out after returning to their working context. This contributes to the development and dissemination of the risk management approach in the cultural heritage field.
First week - The first week of the course focused on introducing the concepts and terminology of risk management, and on establishing the context for risk management. Conceptual tools and deductive approaches for the comprehensive identification of risks were introduced. Participants identified risks to collections and buildings at the ASTRA Traditional Folk Civilization Museum, in which context the different stages of the risk management cycle were practiced during the course.
At the end of the week a mini-conference took place in which participants and the resource-team shared and discussed their experiences in ‘Selecting and communicating preventive conservation priorities’
Second week - The second week introduced a fundamental aspect of risk management, the notion of 'loss of value' of cultural property. Lectures and exercises alternated to explore issues of cultural heritage values, value assessments, and, in particular, the relation between material changes and loss of value, and the notion of relative significance within a collection or an ensemble of movable and immovable heritage.
The course further focused on writing meaningful and unambiguous risk scenarios. Scenarios describe the chain of cause to effect for each specific risk identified, from the source(s) of potential harm to the expected material changes (damage) and related loss of value. Quantitative data as precise as possible are provided in scenarios to allow estimates of rates of damaging processes, or the likelihood of events, as well as of the extent of loss to cultural property resulting from those processes or events within a given period of time. Throughout the week, participants developed and refined scenarios for the specific risks they had identified at the ASTRA Traditional Folk Civilization Museum during the first week. The second week concluded with the analysis of the various risks by quantifying their magnitude using a purposely developed scoring system, followed by their evaluation based on magnitude and associated uncertainty. Examples of risks assessed by participants included falling trees on historic houses, physical damage during the seasonal moving of the collections between storage and display areas, pilfering of small objects, fire in storage areas, etc.
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:
- materials science with emphasis on vulnerability to incorrect relative humidity, incorrect temperature, light and ultraviolet radiation;
- statistics and historical records of earthquake and fire risks;
- calculating the magnitude of risks for the case study
Third week - During the last week of the course, participants discussed options for treating risks. Cost-benefit analysis was introduced as a tool to compare different options, taking into account collateral risks. Participants worked in groups to identify and analyze treatment options for the risks they assessed at the ASTRA Traditional Folk Civilization Museum. They also explored planning strategies to implement the proposed risk treatments.
The knowledge and skills built throughout the course were put into practice to communicate the results of the ASTRA museum case-study to senior management and museum staff.
In order to allow participants to practice further the risk management skills built during the course a one-day exercise on risk-based decision making was set up. Grouped according to their area of expertise or interest, participants were presented with hypothetical decision making situations involving different types of cultural property in different concrete contexts: the possible use of rooms in a historical palace for social events that would sponsor its interior restoration; returning a wooden church from an open air museum to its original setting; relocation of an ethnographic collection exhibit to a new exhibition area in the museum; and the acceptance of a significant archival collection and its housing in the problematic basement rooms by an archive. The groups assessed the risks and benefits in the different situations, discussed possible treatment options, and presented their conclusions and supporting argumentation and evidence at the end of the exercise.
Final sessions of the course included feedback from teachers on the outputs of the case study, and participants’ reflections and planning for the future on how to use the risk management approach in their respective professional realities.
- Professional capacity-building: 22 professionals from 17 countries have increased their knowledge and skills concerning the application of risk management to the preservation of cultural property.
- Networking: The international community of practice on risk management applied to cultural heritage has been reinforced by the 22 professionals who attended the course. A website has been created to serve as a platform for networking and professional communication prior, during, and (especially) after the course. Participants were able to find all the necessary information concerning the course in the website, as well as general information on risk management. The website is expected to be used as a place for asking questions, to start discussions on different topics related to risk management, to share information about different projects and initiatives, etc., contributing to increase sustainability. Participants were encouraged to actively use the site and contribute to its development for the benefit of the risk management online community.
- Improved didactic methodology and teaching aids: The course involved the collaboration of 11 teachers, senior scientists, conservators, and managers who worked extensively to discuss, improve, and harmonize their approaches, as well as to assess and respond to the participants’ daily feedbacks in order to improve the following sessions. In particular, substantial progress was made in teaching the concepts of value assessment and value distributions within heritage collections, as well as of uncertainty in risk management, in developing skills for systematic survey and observation of cultural property, and in teaching approaches to extract useful data from the specialized literature and from institutional memories.
- 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