Advice about Collections Care

Collections Care Guidance during the Covid-19 Crisis

Conservation specialists Spencer and Fry have pulled together some suggestions on how to care for your museum collections during the Covid-19 crisis.

  1. Please put your health and wellbeing first. Only visit your museum if it is safe to do so and is within the latest government guidance.
  2. Highlighted actions can possibly be carried out at home.
  3. If possible and the current Government guidance allows, a regular check should be made of the museum or historic property to check the collection is okay, and all security and environmental control measures are working. If this requires lone working, put measures in place to make this safe (like notifying someone where you will be, and carrying a mobile phone.)

Check security

  • Check all display cases and stores are locked and keys stored appropriately.
  • Consider moving objects to store for additional security if this can be done safely.
  • Ensure alarms and CCTV are working.
  • Ensure all entry and exit points are secured, including windows
  • Consider signage to point out the site is secured and monitored.



Reduce light exposure on light sensitive objects

  • Close shutters, blinds or curtains to reduce natural light entering rooms with collections.
  • Where blackout is not possible, close books on display, return light sensitive objects to store or cover with Tyvek or other museum safe material.


Check insect pest traps and prevention measures

  • Remove any food and rubbish to reduce possible insect and rodent infestations.
  • Change traps (if not done recently).
  • Quarantine any object with a possible infestation.
  • Check the latest trapping data and research insects found. Plot the data on a plan of the building.


Review Environmental Data

  • Download dataloggers – some systems can be checked remotely.
  • If you are shutting the museum remember to keep on heating if it is controlling the humidity.
  • Ensure that the environmental monitoring system is working and plugged in, ensure anyone who might check on the museum understands that this equipment must remain plugged in during any closure period. Label plugs if necessary.
  • Change silica gel/ prosorb etc in display cases and storage boxes.
  • Empty dehumidifiers if required.
  • Review the last 12 months of environmental data.



Start/ finish or update your Emergency Plan and check appropriate measures are in place.

  • Check all contact details are up to date for staff and suppliers.
  • Check priority cards are up to date.
  • Hold a table top exercise using video conferencing.
  • Check all rubbish is removed to reduce fire loading.
  • Check electrical devices not required for environmental monitoring/ control or security are unplugged. Do not unplug freezers if they are being used for the storage or treatment of objects.
  • Remove any unnecessary flammable items from site, ensure any flammable materials are stored correctly, e.g. in a flam cupboard.
  • Ensure taps and unnecessary water supplies are turned off to reduce the risk of flood (NB heating systems should be left on if controlling the humidity or needed for frost protection.)


Update/ check the inventory and labelling

  • Carry out data management and data cleaning.
  • Label objects.
  • Consider making the inventory digital.


Deep clean

  • Carry out high level/ deep clean.
  • Update cleaning schedules.
  • Plan for how the museum might be cleaned for reopening in line with decontamination guidance.


Update collection care policies

  • Update hospitality guidelines.
  • Update filming guidelines, etc.


Update your Health and Safety policies


Check collection care equipment

  • Audit what you have and if it is in working order.
  • Write a list of equipment required and cost.
  • Consider donating any unopened boxes of PPE to the NHS.


Carry out a benchmark assessment and/or condition check the collections


Commission conservation work

  • Consider sending objects for conservation if access to the object is possible and you can safely pack and transport the object. Some conservators will be able to work in their studios during this time.


Read up on Collection Care/Preventive Conservation


Undertake online learning


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