Risk management of cultural heritage
Today, preventive conservation is widely recognized as a priority line of action. However, decision-makers are confronted with difficult choices in planning conservation strategies with limited resources. Should we put all our resources in a sophisticated environmental control system, or should we upgrade the fire control system instead? What exactly will happen to this collection of costumes and basketry if they remain exposed to this level of light? And in the long term, how will this damage compare to the various forms of damage possible from the increasing numbers of visitors?
Useful scientific and technical knowledge continues to grow but is often incorporated in current practice slowly, incorrectly, or not at all. Despite the best intents, museums may apply unrealistic standards, guidelines, or lists of best practice, with no clear sense of priority, or of realistic expected benefits.
The risk management approach applied by decision makers in many fields outside cultural heritage can help these planning decisions. Risk management encourages the reappraisal of conservation strategies aiming for concrete results in a systematic way.
It can be used to directly address the question: what will be the condition of my collections at some future moment, for example in 10, 30 or 100 years, if no actions are taken, or if new actions are taken. 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 the collections. Thus risk management becomes an integrated institutional view of both the use and the conservation of cultural property.
ICCROM, in collaboration with the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) and the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (ICN), has worked on developing the risk management approach for cultural heritage field. This collaboration has resulted in an international course on Reducing Risks to Collections and complementary research, publication and communication activities.
Objectives for 2010–2011
Consolidate scientific partnership: In this biennium, it is planned to consolidate the scientific and technical partnership of this project and renew the agreement between ICCROM, CCI and ICN. The three institutions will also continue their dissemination and consultation efforts to ensure future involvement of other national conservation research institutes, universities, and research groups in related fields, in particular in the area of the science of forecasting and mitigating natural hazards, or in the area of risk management for built heritage and sites.
Increase the critical mass of users: In order to create a critical mass of users and serve a wider group of interested professionals, ICCROM and its partners will design a new course concept, with a strong distance-learning component
Integrate disaster risk management with the management of slow and continual risks: The application of risk management to disaster risks for cultural heritage started some years before the current methodology was developed. The two fields need to be examined and integrated.
Activities for 2010–2011
International course on reducing risks to collections
The course is focused on the discovery, discussion and practice of the concepts underlying the risk management approach. It examines the best available research to enhance estimates of all types of risks. Studying a real museum collection, participants practice each stage of this approach, from risk assessment to the development and planning of options for risk mitigation. Special consideration is given to the concerns of institutions with limited resources. The course emphasizes risk communication and teamwork.
This biennium, the course concept will be entirely revised to include a substantial distance-learning component during which participants will implement risk management in their own institutions. A tutoring team, composed of former course participants who specialized in the field, will be established to assist participants organized in regional and sub-regional working groups.
International rotating project on teamwork for integrated emergency management
Teamwork for Integrated Emergency Management (TIEM) is a joint education project of ICCROM, the Getty Conservation Institute and ICOM. Since 2005, the project has been implemented twice already, moving from one region to another. Each project has a life span of 18 months involving 10-12 museums in a region. Teams are created in each museum and meet to learn together and to know each other during an introductory workshop. The workshop is followed by a distance-mentoring phase during which teams implement their disaster risk management plans. Each project culminates into a final review seminar when participants and mentors share their achievements and outline follow-up strategies. At each venue, ICCROM and its partners encourage the collaboration of other institutions, such as UNESCO or national universities and conservation centres.
In 2009-10, the project moves to the Caucasus Mountains area, including also other countries such as Iran, Iraq and Greece. A consortium of Turkish universities and National museums proposed this initiative and will host and coordinate it with ICCROM and partners. The initiative has gained full support from the European Union.
25 July, 2010