Condition checking and technical assessment (Spectrum 5.0 consultation draft)

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Scope

Use this procedure whenever you need to document the condition of an object at a given moment. There are many situations where you might do this, so you will often use this procedure together with others. As well as visual checks, the procedure might involve technical assessments such as scientific tests on material samples. Condition checks also inform recommendations for treating, storing and using objects. Over time, the resulting records provide an audit trail of changes to your objects.

This procedure is closely linked to Collections care and conservation, with several checks or assessments likely in the course of conservation treatment.

The Spectrum standard

You must have a policy covering the condition checking and technical assessment of objects. This could either be a standalone document or part of a wider collections management policy. Either way, you should include answers to these questions:

  • Who is responsible for checking the condition of your objects?
  • How often will you normally check the condition of objects in different categories of risk?
  • What factors should trigger specific condition checks? (eg other collection management procedures)
  • What standard of checking and recording (eg photographs) is required for each procedure, and do the right people have the skills and training needed?
  • What should happen if there are concerns about the condition of objects?
  • Do you allow technical assessments that involve damaging objects by taking samples for destructive testing?

You must also have a written procedure that explains the steps to follow when managing and carrying out condition checks and technical assessments. Spectrum’s suggested procedure is a useful starting point, and is available as a workflow diagram or as a text file you can edit. However you do it, your own procedure must meet the following minimum requirements:

Minimum requirement Why this is important See (cross-references to be added in final version)
You monitor and record the condition of your collections according to the schedule set out in your policy. You build up information over time that can help you plan the care of your collection as a whole.
Your staff and volunteers know when a condition check is needed as part of another procedure, and either how to do it or who to ask. You check the condition of objects at points of risk (eg before and after moving them).

You have well-documented evidence should any problem arise over alleged damage.

You schedule condition checks after any significant change to an object’s use or environment. Any adverse impact is picked up before lasting damage is done.
All condition checks are documented and the information can be accessed via the relevant object numbers. You can find condition information for specific objects when you need it.
You record the date, name of the condition checker and the reason for checking. You can audit condition checks.

You can flag up problems with other procedures if condition checks are not recorded when they should be.

Your staff and volunteers know what to do if they have concerns about the condition of any objects. Potential problems are reported to the right people in a timely way.

Feedback

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Responses

  1. I would suggest that we use a system of 3 levels of condition reporting:
    1. Condition check, this should be used for thing like loan inspection, audits or object that will need preventative conservation or housekeeping. ( This should be able to be written by all museum staff)
    2. Condition report this is use for objects going on loan and conservation treatments that is interventive conservation that will require the use of tools chemicals etc. (This should be written by staff with conservation skills and ideally looked at be a professional conservator)
    3. Full condition report this is when major interventive conservation treatment is required that might involve restoration this should be used on large object with many components or working objects where each part requires inspection. ( This level of reporting should only be done by a professional conservator )
    I find this system works well as it avoids confusion between condition checks and condition reports before treatment. It clear who can do the reports at each level and reports at each level and is flexible enough to work with budget and staff limitations and fits in with most objects.

  2. Can you link this more explicitly to conservation and collections care – condition changes may result in conservation intervention or adjustments to environment, packing or andling procedures – the impression is that they are two very separate things with changes in condition occurring during conservation but not indicating the possibility of changes leading to a prioritised programme of conservation

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Date created: 2017

Author: Collections Trust

Publisher: Collections Trust