What Is Museum SOS

Lisa Kronthal
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Garnet Muething
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Robert Waller
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Bridge Building 101:
Partnerships for Collection Risk Management

Lisa Kronthal
Conservator of Natural Sciences Collections
American Museum of Natural History

Garnet Muething, Robert Waller
Canadian Museum of Nature


The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) holds more than 30 million specimens and artifacts in dozens of interconnected buildings within several divisions. Recent concerns about disasters (both man-made and natural) together with observations of ongoing deterioration led to a need to identify priorities in order to address collection care issues throughout these vast and widely dispersed collections. An Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) conservation assessment conducted in 1997/98 recommended training in risk assessment and management for staff development. The AMNH, through shared support by the Office of the Dean of Science for collections and the Senior Vice President for Operations had the Canadian Museum of Nature (CMN) deliver a workshop "Assessing and Managing Risks to the Collections of the American Museum of Natural History". Following the training the AMNH has applied the risk assessment approach in stages. This approach is collaborative between departments within the museum and between the AMNH, the CMN, and other external sources of expertise. AMNH staff within Collections, Security, Facilities Operations and Operational Planning needed to clearly communicate their needs, expectations, constraints and limitations. In doing so, they built bridges of understanding and mutual appreciation. Externally, the AMNH worked with the CMN to borrow established practices wherever possible, to ensure consistency of approach, and to benefit from peer review of results. They will need to work with external agencies such as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), United States Geological Survey (USGS), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to understand the severity of rare and catastrophic risks. Many bridges both internal and external are being established or strengthened in ways that will improve the long-term preservation of collections.


PDF of entire lecture

Waller, R. 1994. Pages 12-16 in A. Roy and P. Smith (eds.). Preventive Conservation Practice, Theory and Research. Preprints of the Contributions to the Ottawa Congress, 12-16 September 1994. London: The International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.

Waller, R. 1995. Pages 21-27 in Storage of Natural History Collections: A Preventive Conservation Approach. C. L. Rose, C. A. Hawks and H. H. Genoways (eds.). Iowa City: Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections.

Waller, R. 1996. Pages 1-9 in Preservation of Collections: Assessment, Evaluation, and Mitigation Strategies. Papers Presented at the AIC Workshop. Washington, D.C.: American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.

Robert Waller and Stefan Michalski. Getty Conservation Institute Newsletter 19(1): 4-9, 2004.


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