Condition checking and technical assessment – suggested procedure

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You should have a written procedure that explains the steps to follow when managing and carrying out condition checks and technical assessments. This suggested procedure is useful starting point. It is given as text and also as a workflow diagram. However you do it, your own procedure should meet the minimum requirements of the Spectrum standard.

Requesting a check/assessment

A condition check or technical assessment of an object is usually prompted by another Spectrum procedure. When many objects are involved, you may need to check a sample rather than all of them.

Do the objects need to be moved to be checked?

Checks should be made in good light so that the true colour and condition of the objects can be recorded. You may also need materials and equipment, and potentially a suitable quarantine area if the objects are infested or contain hazardous materials.

If you need to move objects to check them, go to Location and movement control.

Carrying out a check/assessment

Carry out the check or assessment.

Your policy should say who is authorised to carry out condition checks and technical assessments, and when, in particular, professional conservators are needed. (See Note 1) Where available, you should refer to previous condition checks and other relevant information such as hazard notes and handling recommendations.

Where possible take photographs.

Photographic records are highly desirable (and may be required by lenders, insurers or indemnifiers). Use sketches or diagrams in addition to photographs to indicate areas of loss or damage. Go to Reproduction.

Record information about the check or assessment.

Recording the following information about the checking or assessment process:

Object identification information or Object entry information

Condition check/technical assessment information

Record information about the result of the check or assessment.

The condition information may be recorded on an entry record, a catalogue record or on a separate record with access provided from other documentation files. This can be duplicated in the form of an ‘object passport’ to remain with the object identifying special conditions or hazards. Record as much detail about the condition of the object as required by the procedure. For example:

  • A brief comment (eg fair, cracked lid) when an object enters your premises.
  • A full technical assessment carried out by a conservator to determine the make-up of the object and conservation actions which may be required. The condition of the object should be recorded before any treatment takes place.

Record the following as needed:

Object condition and technical assessment information

Object requirement information

Object conservation and treatment information

  • If relevant, next check date after conservation – Recall date (use a standard format).

Responding to a check/assessment

Update object records with any recommendations on storage, handling, etc.

If the results of the check or assessment were not recorded directly into the relevant object records, update these so that any important hazard notes or care recommendations are available to others. Note the Document location of any filed reports so that you and others can find them in future.

Does the check cause concern?

If the condition of the object gives cause for concern, or if it differs from that recorded in previous condition checks, get the opinion of a conservator or other appropriate specialist. Go to Collections care and conservation.

If there is no cause for concern return to the procedure that prompted the check.

Guidance notes

Note 1: Standards of condition checking and recording

You might find it useful to specify three levels of condition checking, depending on the complexity of the reporting and the level of expertise required:

  • Condition check carried out by potentially any member of staff or volunteer (eg when objects arrive as enquiries, loans or potential acquisitions).
  • Condition report prepared by staff with conservation skills or, ideally, a professional conservator (eg for objects going on loan and before conservation treatments involving tools or chemicals).
  • Full condition report prepared by a professional conservator before major conservation treatment (eg the restoration of a complex object with many components).

Date created: 2017

Author: Collections Trust

Publisher: Collections Trust