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Museums Collections Management - 20 credits (HS2421)

Course Description

This module will consider the way that museums and other heritage organisations manage and care for the collections that they hold. The module will consider a range of agents of deterioration which contribute to the decay and loss of collections. Students will examine a range of strategies, from technical to managerial to understand and modify conditions to create acceptable levels of care for collections.

Credits: 20

Availability of module: Every Year

Prerequisites: N/A

Necessary for: BSc Conservation of Museum Objects and Archaeology, MSc Conservation Practice

Tutor: Jane Henderson

Teaching methods

This module will be delivered through a series of 10, 100 minute lectures and seminar classes. Most lecture classes will include a 10 minute break between 50 minute sessions. There will be one site visit to a museum facility. Some lectures may be delivered by guest lectures with relevant expertise in the museum sector. Several of the lectures will involve group work exercises which may include the use of psychrometric charts. Seminars will include small group working with students reporting back on their discussions.  All lecture and seminar classes are compulsory. Students will be asked to sign up for the field trip.


The module will offer both formative and summative assessment.


Students will be required to take and provide a caption for an image that encapsulates an aspect of collections management in museums and this content will form part of a classroom lecture where the students will be invited to present their observation.


Essay 2000 words, Exam 1 hour

Essays and exams will give students an opportunity to respond to a range of topics. Exams will take place in the Autumn semester exam period which occurs in the January following teaching.

Essays and Exams will be equally weighted 50:50 in deriving the final mark

Summary of course content

The following topics will be covered by this module.

  • Museums and their meaning:, types and organisation of museum, what is a museum, museums in society, the role of a collections care, agents of deterioration,
  • Standards, Units, Targets & Pollution: The evolution and development of standards, Pollution sources, damage to collections, units of measurement, target levels, control, selection of materials for display and storage.
  • Relative Humidity and Temperature: Sources, damage to collections, units of measurement, target levels, control strategies, phsychrometrics.
  • Pests -Cellulosic pests and keratinatious pests, damage to collection, monitoring, control
  • Light and Ultraviolet Light: Sources, damage to collections, units of measurement, target levels, control
  • Environmental Monitoring equipment: Principles of environmental monitoring, practical use of monitoring equipment
  • Museum management, risk management, emergency preparedness: the role of planning and finance, the core planning documents in a museum, risk management, allocation of funding, definitions of emergencies, planning, prevention response and recovery.
  • Interacting with collections, display, storage and movement: handling guidelines, moving collections, case specification, examining cases, air exchange rate testing.
  • Strategies for collections management: Condition surveys, benchmarks & costs benefit analysis, persuasion and negotiation.

Learning outcomes

  • Describe the role of museums in society
  • Discuss the relationship between access and preservation of collections
  • Explain the mechanisms by which museums are managed with a specific focus on collections management
  • Recognise agents of deterioration which impact on museum artefacts
  • Describe the mechanisms by which an agent of deterioration leads to harm to museums artefacts
  • List and the process and metrics used to measure and monitor agents of deterioration and assess the impact of the environment on heritage collections.
  • Communicate appropriate practice in the care and protection of cultural heritage
  • Describe managerial and technical strategies to optimise levels of deterioration within a specific  institutional context

Suggested book purchases


Suggested preparatory reading

The module will require a broad range of reading, mainly from conference publications, journals and edited compilations. Students will be expected to update reading for case studies via museums and museum organisations’ web site. Students are advised to visit museums, including historic house and art galleries in the course of this module.

Ambrose T. & Paine, C. (2006), Museum Basics, Routledge and ICOM.

Arts Council England. (2011), Accreditation Scheme for Museums and Galleries in the United Kingdom: Accreditation Standard., ACE London

Ashley-Smith, J. (1999) Risk assessment for object conservation Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford, Boston.

Boylan [ed] (1992) Museums 2000: Politics, People, Professionals and Profit. Routledge  and the Museums  Association.

British Standards Institution, (2009) Code of practice for cultural collections management : PAS 197:2009, British Standards Institute, London

British Standards Institution, (2012) PAS 198:2012 Specification for managing environmental conditions for cultural collections British Standards Institute, London

British Standards Institution, (2012 b) PD 5454:2012 Guide for the storage and exhibition of archival materials British Standards Institute, London

British Standards Institution, (2013) BS EN 15999-1. Conservation of cultural heritage. Guidelines for management of environmental conditions. Recommendations for showcases used for exhibition and preservation of cultural property. General requirements  Under consultaction Jan 2013

Camuffo, D Fassina, V. Havermans, J. (eds) (2010) Basic Environmental Mechanisms Affecting Cultural heritage: Understanding deterioration mechanisms for conservation purposes, Cost Action D 42: chemical interactions between cultural artefacts and Indoor environment (Enviart) Nardini Editore Belgium

Cassar, M. (1995) Environmental management: Guidelines for Museums and Galleries Museums and Galleries Commission and Routledge, London.

CIBSE, (2002) Guide to Building Services for Historic Buildings, CIBSE, London.

Dawson, A. (2011) Benchmarks in Collections Care2.0: A self assessment checklist MLA.

Hillhouse, S. (2009) Collections Management: A practical guide Collections Trust

Hooper-Greenhill, E. [ed] (1994) Museums and their Visitors Routledge.

Padfield, T. and Borchersen, K. (2007) Applying science to the question of museum climate, Contributions to the Conference in Museum Microclimates, in Copenhagen, November 2007.

Lord, B and Lord, G.D. (1999) The Manual of Museum Planning,2nd edition. HMSO, Norwich.

Henderson, J. (2006) Influence: The Impact of Language, Credibility and Gender The Conservator 29 2005/6 ICON pp5-18

Jenkins, T (2011) Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections, Routledge, New York Oxford

Kavanagh, G (2000) Dream spaces: memory and the museum, Continuum International Publishing Group

Keene, S. (1991) Auditis of care: a framework for collections condition surveys In: Norman, M. and Todd, V. Storage Pre-prints for UKIC conference Restoration ’91, UKIC, London.

Lord, B and Dexter Lord, G., (1999) The Manual of Museum Planning 2nd Edition. HMSO, London.

Marstine, J. (ed), (2011)The Routledge Companion to Museum Ethics, Redefining Ethics for the twenty first century Museum, Routledge

Michalski, S., (1990) An overall framework for preventive conservation and remedial conservation ICOM Committee for Conservation 9th Triennial Meeting Dresden August (1990), Vol. II. 602-607 ICOM Committee for Conservation, Los Angeles.

Museums and Galleries Commission, (2000) Working with Independent Conservators. Guidelines for good practice. Museums and Galleries Commission, London.

The National Trust (2006) The National Trust Manual of Housekeeping : the care of collections in historic houses open to the public, London Elsevier/ Butterworth Heinemann

Sandwith & Stainton Eds. (1984) National Trust Manual Of Housekeeping Allen Lane With The National Trust

Thomson, G. (1986) Museum Environment 2nd Edn. Butterworths

Thompson, J. M. A. Ed, (1992) Manual of Curatorship  Butterworths

Waller, R. (1994) Conservation risk assessment: a strategy for managing resources for preventive conservation.  Preventive Conservation: Practice, Theory and Research: IIC Pre-prints of the Contributions to the Ottawa Congress,12-16 September 1994 12-16  International Institute for Conservation , London.