Collections care and conservation – the Spectrum standard

By accessing this resource, you agree to the Spectrum licence.

You should have a policy on the care of your collections and the conservation of objects. This could either be a standalone document or part of a wider collections management policy. Either way, in deciding your policy you will most likely need to consider these questions:

  • Who is responsible for setting and ensuring the standards of collections care you will maintain (involving external specialists if needed)?
  • What are those standards for the different categories of objects in your collection?
  • How you will monitor that these standards are being maintained?
  • When might you consider conservation treatment for objects?
  • Who will be involved in agreeing the scope of any proposed conservation work (especially on objects that do not belong to your museum)?
  • Who can authorise conservation work?
  • Who can carry out conservation work, and what are your criteria for selecting external specialists where needed?
  • How should conservation work be documented, and what records should external contractors provide?

You should also have a written procedure that explains the steps to follow when managing and carrying out conservation of objects. Spectrum’s suggested procedure is a useful starting point, but however you do it, your own procedure should meet the following minimum requirements:

Minimum requirement Why this is important
Appropriate authorisation is given for any decision to change an object’s standard of care or carry out any conservation treatment. No conservation work happens without the knowledge of those responsible for the objects.
You record the details of all collections care measures and conservation treatment (including dates and who performed the work) – and can access these via relevant object numbers. You have a full conservation history of your objects, and can find this information easily when you need it.

If a problem later arises, you can check other objects that might also be affected.

You update objects’ catalogue records with any new information gained as a result of conservation. New insights about how objects were made are not just kept in conservation files that might not be generally accessible.
You schedule, where necessary, any further conservation treatment, call-back condition checks or periodic care activities. You can plan your conservation activity and ensure that objects are available when needed.


Date created: 2017

Author: Collections Trust

Publisher: Collections Trust