Condition checking and technical assessment – the Spectrum standard

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You should 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, in deciding your policy you will most likely need to consider 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 images) 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 should 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, but however you do it, your own procedure should meet the following minimum requirements:

Minimum requirement Why this is important
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 as appropriate 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.


Date created: 2017

Author: Collections Trust

Publisher: Collections Trust