A set of conservation guidelines for exhibitions

Toby Raphael and Martin Burke

Abstract

Exhibit conservation focuses on practical techniques that protect museum collections from unnecessary damage while on display. The National Park Service has recently completed a technical resource intended to assist exhibit specialists achieve preservation-responsible exhibits. The document is called the Exhibit Conservation Guidelines and has been produced as an electronic publication, presented in a CD-ROM format. Excerpts are included below.

Improperly designed and poorly fabricated exhibits are a significant source of damage for museum collections. Several years ago the Department of Conservation embarked on a major preventive conservation project to develop a set of practical, exhibit guidelines. The objective was to create a “user friendly” technical resource for both NPS personnel and exhibit specialists in general.

The Exhibit Conservation Guidelines establishes a methodical approach for the inclusion of conservation in the often-confusing processes of exhibit development and production. It defines the critical areas of involvement for conservation specialists, includes the baseline information known in the field and adds what we at the NPS have learned from many years of producing exhibits.

Only by involving conservation early and throughout the process, can we ensure preservation-responsible planning, design and production. Years of experience have taught us that successful exhibits require a close, constructive working relationship between exhibit, curatorial and conservation specialists. A sense of shared responsibility for collection preservation and trust are invaluable parts of the equation.

The technical resource includes over 300 pages of guidelines, technical notes and drawings. Information on obtaining the Guidelines may be obtained through the National Park Service’s exhibit web page: www.nps.gov/hfc/conservation/exhibit. The following is a summary of the narrative section of the Guidelines.

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