Treatments > Response

Develop a response strategy that favors preventive conservation to minimize proactively the need for physical intervention to treat objects.

When considering remediation, assess effect on features and systems.

Stages of Response


Each agent of deterioration has the potential to harm museum objects. Therefore, sources and attractants of each agent must be avoided. It is always preferable, but not always possible, to avoid the agent rather than having to deal with it and with its consequences by other means of control.


"Block" is frequently the most practical stage of control. If an agent cannot be avoided, then it should be prevented from reaching or affecting artifacts. For example, fire walls and compartments block fire, exclusion methods can be used to block pests, and vapour barriers block moisture and contaminants.

Enclosures have special significance for museums. The building enclosure can be designed in such a way that it not only blocks fire, criminals, and water, but also pests, outside contaminants, UV and unnecessary light, incorrect temperature, and incorrect relative humidity. Portable enclosures such as cases, cabinets, crates, boxes, bags, and bottles are just as important as building features for blocking agents from reaching individual artifacts.


If an agent of deterioration has not been avoided or blocked, then its presence will have to be detected within the collection, either directly or by its effects. For example, one can detect either the source of direct physical forces or the new damage caused by them.

Regular inspection of the collection is necessary to detect new damage early. The frequency of inspections depends on the rate and risk of each agent. For example, constant monitoring is required to detect fire and criminals as soon as they are present because they act quickly and are major risks to the collection. However, only periodic monitoring is necessary to detect slower agents such as pests and contaminants, or agents that do not present as great a risk, such as small water leaks.


Once the agent's presence has been detected, action must be taken. Establish response strategies in advance. Appropriate response time depends on the rate and risk of the agent. Minutes count when responding to fire or criminals, but museum staff may have a day or more before having to respond to damage by water, pests, or damp. Continue response activities until the agent is eliminated.


If all attempts at controlling damage from an agent of deterioration fail, then steps must be taken to recover from this damage by treating the affected artifacts. Usually, this involves cleaning, consolidation, and repair. However, much damage is impossible to undo. Some museum collections include the building. When damaged, newer buildings and facilities may be repaired or rebuilt, but rebuilding is a less acceptable or feasible option with historic buildings, In all cases, it is better to establish control strategies so that this stage is never reached.

Stages of Response, Framework for Preservation of Museum Collections, Canadian Conservation Institute.

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