In 2014 IIC and ICOM-CC drafted and published the joint statement, Declaration on Environmental Guidelines. The statement broadly addressed the issues of museum ‘sustainability and management’, ‘environment’, ‘loans’, and ‘existing interim guidelines’. The Environmental Guidelines Taskforce for the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material (AICCM) had earlier that year submitted to the National Council the AICCM Recommended Interim Temperature and Relative Humidity Guidelines for Acceptable Storage and Display Conditions of General Collection Material, following four years of work and based predominantly on international research undertaken in the northern hemisphere. The AICCM interim guidelines is one of three attached as an appendix to the IIC and ICOM-CC joint statement (the others being authored by the Bizot Group and the American Institute for Conservation).
Stefan Michalski, a principal researcher and prodigious writer on the topic of museum climate and collection care, is succinct in his assessment that moving from the universally accepted historical environmental guideline of 50±5%RH and 20±2⁰C towards a climate, building and collections based approach is ‘unclear and daunting’1 for even the most well-resourced museums.
The contemporary approach based on risk-assessments and alternate, wider environmental set-points is often referred to as ‘relaxed guidelines’. However, the AICCM National Council considers a move towards risk-based assessment and sustainable environmental management as industry best-practice, demonstrating rigor and integrity within the museum conservation profession. In acknowledgment of this the AICCM National Council has tasked the Environmental Guidelines Committee to expand on the interim guidelines with the objective of developing comprehensive environmental guidelines and resources that address Australian climatic conditions and sustainable museum practices, and provide principles and pathways for achieving best-practice environmental control for diverse national, state and local collecting organisations.
- Michalski, S. 2016 ‘Climate Guidelines for Heritage Collections’ in Summit on the Museum Preservation Environment. Washington DC, Smithsonian Institution. p.28
The project utilises a qualitative methodology based on a descriptive epistemological approach to data collection, organisation and interpretation. Information collection will focus on national and international published research, and unpublished materials and knowledge reflecting current Australian museum practices. Additional leverage will be gained through examination of local case-studies, providing relevant subjective and substantive data. The collected information will be compiled and analysed for the purpose of developing a more complete understanding of the following key issues:
- What museum climate management strategies are currently practised by large and small museums in Australia?
- What tools are required for the Australian conservation and museum community to prepare and assist them to implement sustainable practices and risk-assessment / collections-based environmental controls?
DATA ANALYSIS AND TESTING
COMMUNICATION AND PUBLICATION
Engagement with CAMD, MGA, & AICCM Preventive Conservation SIG to support data collection.
Testing and feedback will be conducted via the AICCM Preventive Conservation SIG.
Drafting, revision and completion of AICCM Environmental Guidelines and resources.
Proposed museum profession communication throughout all stages of the project to include:
- Australian focused environmental guidelines and resources addressing sustainable museum practices, endorsed by AICCM, promoted and made available through Australian museum networks.
- AICCM Environmental Guidelines and resources that have been tested and reviewed locally, that are applicable to and accord with the needs of a diverse range of collecting organisations.
- The development of environmental resources that foster discussions and promote the possibility of lending amongst institutions that manage collections through the use of different environmental set-points and climate maintenance strategies. That is, to draft an approach that provides flexibility and adaptability in its application.
- The development of a local community of museum professionals and practitioners encouraged and enabled to share experiences and provide collective support for the implementation of different modes of sustainable museum practice.
PROJECT CONTRIBUTION TO ADVANCEMENT OF PRACTICE IN THE CONSERVATION FIELD
The international museum profession is experiencing a period of change as sustainable collection management practices emerge as a leading priority for collecting organisations. In recognition of this ICOM-CC and IIC published in late 2014 the joint statement, Declaration on Environmental Guidelines. Three years on the declaration and its pronouncements on environmental guidelines were further discussed and debated at the 2017 ICOM-CC conference in Copenhagen. While this ongoing conversation within the profession reflects community interest, it also demonstrates the complexity of setting environmental parameters suitable for a variety of mixed collections and museum activities.
The AICCM, through their Environmental Guidelines project, is aiming to develop Australian guidelines and resources that will provide national and local museums with tools to facilitate the transition from historical environmental set-points to safe and sustainable alternate environmental controls that are more consistent with contemporary best-practice.