Do Museum-Hosted Events Risk the Safety of Collections?

Image credit: <a href=''>shotsstudio / 123RF Stock Photo</a>As with many questions of heritage preservation, the answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no.’

Events hosted by the museum can certainly represent a risk to collection safety. Museum professionals easily imagine and often (sadly) remember incidents related to fire, theft, physical damage, pests, and so on.

However, damage to collection is often less closely tied to events than more long-term risks resulting from reduced community ties, support and funding. Events foster a heritage community, which in turn often increases a collection’s lifespan.

These opportunities/challenges should be viewed, not as risk-vs.-no-risk choices, but as risk-risk trade-offs.

That said, technical risk analysis can lead to much better collection care. The link between risks and benefits to the museum within the community is difficult to evaluate. The best approach is now thought to be compromise. Avoiding strict rules when possible allows collection care experts to brainstorm solutions with the museum’s public outreach staff and clients within a creative team setting.

I recommend the recent paper by Kate Frame as a guide to this way of working:
Frame, K. 2013. Creative conservation risk management: evolving a collection risk management strategy at a major heritage attraction. Collections 9(1):103–114.

If you’re interested in learning more about heritage preservation or developing a strategy for your organization’s collection, feel free to give us a call!