Course on the Conservation of Southeast Asian Collections in Storage
In cooperation with:
Duration: 3.5 weeks (8 to 31 May 2006)
Place: Manila , Philippines
Twenty heritage professionals representing nine countries: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.
In a majority of heritage institutions, be they museums, libraries, archives or other types of organizations with custodianship over a given collection, objects in storage form the majority of the collection. Therefore a central challenge for these institutions - to maintain their role as centres of knowledge, research and/or inspiration - consists of implementing effective long-term strategies for the adequate care, management and tracking of collections in storage. The course aimed to consolidate this capacity among professionals directly involved with Southeast Asian collections. It achieved this through the study of threats to collections in storage, conceptual and practical tools, storage materials and techniques, as well as problem-solving approaches to relevant needs in Southeast Asia (e.g. air pollution in urban areas, climate and pest control in tropical countries, low-cost methods, space management, etc.).
The course consisted of interactive, participatory sessions, both theoretical and practical. Study visits to different heritage institutions in the Philippines were undertaken and included joint working sessions with the relevant staff of the host institutions.
Introductory session - following a brief overview, the course began by exploring and activating the capacity of the course team and the participants to work together in an interactive and dynamic way. Special attention was paid to devising ways to overcome linguistic challenges, considering that English was not the first language of most people taking part.
Unit one - What do museums store and why do they store it?
The module began by exploring the diversity of materials and values that are contained in objects and collections. The importance of institutional mandates for assigning significance to particular objects and collections was underlined. The principles and skills necessary for meaningful observation and documentation. The use of existing documentation, and the relationship between the labelling and locating of objects, was discussed. Participants were encouraged to think about storage as an area of responsibility and a function of an institution, not only as a static physical space.
Unit two -
Knowing your storage
This module aimed at strengthening the understanding of the risks facing collections and the fragility of collections in their environment. After a general overview, special attention was given to the themes of understanding built spaces, of dynamics of dust in storage areas, of bio-deterioration, and of monitoring the storage within an institution. This module also focused on developing the skills of the participants in applying scientific methods in their work. The module included a one-day practice assessment at a heritage institution.
Unit three -
Supporting objects, storing collections
This module addressed skills and concepts necessary for devising practical solutions for the storage needs of different types of objects and collections. The principles and practice of handling objects were addressed, as well as alternatives for effective and safe storage of collections. Time and attention were given to designing, executing and discussing supports, containers and furniture. The qualities, strengths and weaknesses of traditional containers from the Philippines (and Southeast Asia) were discussed, as a basis of selection between different material options. The module included a visit and presentation from colleagues in the Philippines working on the development of locally-produced conservation quality paper.
Unit four - Looking ahead
The final module of the course addressed issues of long-term planning on an institutional level. One day was dedicated to the Museum Emergency Preparedness (MEP) programme at the National Museum of the Philippines. The second day discussed principles and examples of long term planning for storage management. The final day was dedicated to drawing conclusions, discussing ideas for the future and evaluating the course.
- Professional capacity-building: 20 Southeast Asian professionals have increased their knowledge and skills in the storage of museum, library and archives collections;
- Institutional capacity-building: host institutions in the Philippines have further built their capacity to organize international training events;
- Networking: CollAsia 2010 network reinforced, through the participation of 20 professionals from 9 Southeast Asian countries, and an international course team of over 30 professionals from Australia, Chile, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Netherlands and the Philippines;
- Final evaluation results: participant evaluations show very high levels of overall satisfaction with course coordination, themes, materials, lectures and study visits;
- Public/private sector collaboration: through the key participation of the National Museum and the University of Santo Tomas, as well as contributions from 20 other public and private organizations in the Philippines;
- Impact: teaching and other resource materials on storage issues have been produced and are accessible; participants expected to disseminate results of the course through articles, presentations, reports and echo seminars, aimed at colleagues as well as other institutions and departments in their home countries.
24 November, 2007