Dealing with unexpected closure: a guide to caring for collections in buildings closed due to COVID-19

Closed by COVID-19?

A Practice Guide for managers of heritage collection that are closed at short notice because of an epidemic or pandemic

As you’ll be aware, many collecting organisations have closed to the public because of COVID-19, and most (if not all) personnel are working from home. The collection stores face extended closure, and there is a new risk to consider when people aren’t around on the same regular basis that applied until a week or so ago.
To guide and support our members and small organisations facing this new future, we have prepared a guide for advising how to ensure that a collection is not neglected despite the less-frequent attention that it receives during this period.

Download the flyer Closed by COVID-19 [version 1.2 PDF 272 kb]

COVID-19 Resource List [updated 23 June – PDF 325 kb]

As we know the situation is changing very rapidly so if you have any feedback regarding the guide please email the secretariat with your comments and we will collate the responses.

Disaster Response

Fire, water, dust and mould can all badly damage collection materials. While a damaged item may never look new again, it is possible to preserve what remains.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Attend to damaged material as quickly as possible, but never try to save possessions at the expense of your own or others’ safety – evacuate as necessary and wait until danger zones have been cleared by emergency personnel
  • Health and safety hazards remain present after a disaster has ended – flood waters can contain waste matter and disease, burned structures may contain asbestos and chemical residues, and mould may be growing in areas that were recently wet
  • Wear protective clothing, gloves, eye protection and masks to minimise risks to your health and safety when salvaging damaged material
  • Minimise handling of damaged materials to prevent rubbing dirt further into fragile surfaces
  • Support weakened items in plastic containers or cardboard boxes
  • Keep dirty items separate from other materials, as soot, dirt and mould can easily be transferred to uncontaminated material.

Additional Resources

Salvaging damaged collections—State Library of Queensland

Q-Dis: Queensland Culture and Heritage Disaster Forum—Facebook group for sharing information on disaster preparedness and planning for Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums and other heritage organisations

Queensland Disaster Recovery Fund— if you wish to support the recovery fund for Queensland’s movable cultural collections impacted by disasters