Bolton Library and Museum Services

Conservation and Care Policy

Date on which this policy was approved by governing body:  8th Dec 2014

Date at which this policy is due for review:  8th Dec 2019

1 Definition

The Conservation & Collections Care policy applies to all objects acquired by Bolton Library & Museum Service as part of the permanent collections and to those objects under temporary care of the service. This policy covers the management and documentation of care of collections, the conservation (interventive and preventive) of objects.

2 Aim

The overall aim of this policy is to facilitate access to the museum collections whilst striving for best practice in collections care and helping the museum to achieve its statement of purpose:

 ‘We will use our collections and expertise to inspire and enlighten our users. This will be done by providing enjoyable museum experiences that reflect the stories and communities of Bolton and that contribute towards creating a strong and confident borough.

3 Interventive Conservation

Interventive conservation will be considered when:

  • Objects are found to be actively deteriorating
  • Objects are broken or damaged and are required for loan or display

Objects will normally be conserved with the minimal amount of intervention necessary to make their condition stable. Restoration will be considered according to the requirements for display and interpretation.

Where possible, interventive conservation work will be reversible and/or distinguishable from the original material.

The service has a programme of in-house interventive conservation. Objects which are actively deteriorating will be given priority, followed by objects required for display or loan.

If an object is a Loan In, no interventive conservation work will be undertaken without the prior written permission of the owner.

The Bolton Library & Museum Service Conservator will carry out interventive conservation treatment in-house on museum objects which fall within their areas of specialist knowledge.

The Bolton Library & Museum Service conservator will come up with treatment proposals; agree the type/extent of the treatment with the collections team in line with this Conservation Policy and the needs of the collection/project.

The Bolton Library & Museum Service Conservator will complete a treatment report and keep a photographic record of all objects conserved in-house.

Treatment reports and photographs will be attached to the museums database (TMS) record for each object enabling the information to be readily accessible.

4 Preventive Conservation

The Bolton Library & Museum Service Conservator is responsible for the implementation of preventive conservation measures and the delivery of associated training to service staff and volunteers.

4.1 Environment

The Conservator will monitor temperature and humidity in all stores and display areas at all sites run by the service (including Bolton Museum, Hall I’ Th’ Wood, Smithills Hall, The Chadwick Resource Centre and Swan Lane Mill) using the MEACO environmental monitoring system or manual equipment. The conservator will manage the work provided by Meaco the environmental management company.

The long-term aim of the Service is to achieve stable environmental conditions in all of its stores and display areas with no more than a +/-5% fluctuation about a set point in a 24 hour period whilst acknowledging that HITW, Smithills and Le Mans are all historic buildings with limited options for control.

The Conservator will investigate any large or sudden fluctuations in temperature and/or humidity and, where possible, take steps to eliminate the causes.

When objects are put on display, the Conservator will check temperature, relative humidity, vibration, pollution risks and light levels in the display area, and make modifications/ recommendations as necessary. During the redevelopment of stores or display areas, the Conservator will advise on conservation grade materials and environmental control systems.

Humidifiers/De-humidifiers will be employed in stores and display areas where the humidity levels are unsuitable for the objects stored/displayed there.

4.2 Light

Sensitive objects will not be exposed to ultraviolet radiation or direct sunlight. Light sensitive material will be displayed in restricted light levels within a range of 50-80 lux. Other organic material will be displayed in light levels of no more than 300 lux. Inorganic material will be displayed in light levels of no more than 600 lux. UV radiation must be no more than 75 microwatts per lumen in museum galleries; this may be relaxed in the historic houses.

4.3 Pests

The Conservator will implement the Integrated Pest Management Plan in all store and display areas on all museum sites.

In order to minimize the risk of damage to objects and to remove food sources for pests, eating and drinking are prohibited in areas where museum or archive collections are stored or used, except for drinking water in sealed non leak containers to be drunk from away from objects.

Food and drink may be consumed in gallery areas where suitable cleaning and protective measures are put in place and agreed with the conservator in advance to ensure the safety of the collections within. Smoking is prohibited in all council buildings.

4.4 Conservation cleaning

General public and some staff spaces across the service will be cleaned by the contracted council cleaning services. The Bolton Museum conservator will advise the cleaning services on products and materials suitable for use in collections areas. Objects on open display will be cleaned by the museum team using cleaning kits put together by the conservator. The conservator will train the museum team in the correct use of the cleaning kits.

Areas out of access to the council cleaning services such as secure stores will be cleaned by the museum collections team on a regular basis; the conservator will ensure spaces are kept clean and tidy to reduce the risk of pest infestation.

Once a year a ‘deep clean’ will be carried out at Hall I’ Th’ Wood and at Smithills Hall. This will include the waxing of wooden furniture/paneling and the vacuuming of textiles.

4.5 Training

The Conservator will provide training to Bolton Library & Museum Service staff on a regular basis, including sessions on condition checking, object packing, pest checking, conservation cleaning and marking & labeling.

The Conservator will provide training in preventive conservation cleaning to Customer Services staff and collections care guidelines will be provided to new members of staff.

The Conservator will provide training in preventive conservation cleaning to volunteers at Smithills Hall and collections care guidelines will be provided to all volunteers.

5. External Conservation

Objects requiring interventive conservation which fall outside the areas of specialist knowledge of the Bolton Library & Museum Service conservator will be sent to external conservators as appropriate.

External conservators’ professional standards will be verified by establishing that they are accredited, examining previous examples of their work, and/or requesting references.

The type/extent of the treatment will be agreed between the external conservator, the in-house Conservator and the collections team, in line with this Policy and the needs of the collection/project.

All external conservation work must be approved by the Museum Management Team, subject to the recommendations of the Bolton Library & Museum Service Conservator.

All external conservation work will be managed by the Bolton Library & Museum Service Conservator.

All external conservation work will be subject to a legal contract to be signed by Bolton’s Conservator.

The Bolton Library & Museum Service Conservator will act as the point of contact between external conservators and Bolton Library & Museum Service.

All external conservators will be required to supply the museum with full documentation of work undertaken- detailed treatment proposals, method statements where necessary and treatment reports (as specified in the contract) in digital format, including photographic/digital images illustrating the object before, during and after treatment. The documentation will be passed onto Bolton’s conservator who will add it to the database as for in-house items.

6. Health & Safety

The conservator will take responsibility for the management of all conservation & collections care related health & safety and documentation thereof including:

  • Monitoring
  • Manual Handling
  • Fire Safety
  • Risk Assessments
  • Method Statements
  • Radiation Protection
  • Working at Height

If a Health & Safety hazard is discovered during the course of conservation treatment, a full risk assessment of the object will be carried out by the Bolton Library & Museum Service Conservator before work continues.

7. Conservation Ethics

The Conservator will keep up to date with new developments in the profession to ensure that the collections of Bolton Library & Museum Service are treated in line with current thinking.

The Conservator will work towards best practice, adhering to professional guidelines and standards, particularly those of the Institute for Conservation (ICON), the Museums Association (MA), the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the European Confederation of Conservator-Restorers' Organisations (ECCO) and the International Institute for Conservation (IIC).

8. Sustainability

The Conservator will take into consideration sustainability issues in all work undertaken and will encourage the use of sustainable conservation methods across the service.

For both environmental and economic reasons the Conservator will reduce, reuse and recycle before acquiring new supplies.

The Conservator will work to reduce the amount of plastics and environmentally toxic chemicals used by the service, actively seeking to utilize more sustainable materials and techniques.

Disposal of waste will be through the most sustainable route possible with landfill being a last resort.

During the redevelopment of stores or display areas, the Conservator will advise on environmentally sustainable & conservation grade suppliers, materials, fixtures and fittings.

9. External collections care support and technical help

All external specialists brought in to support conservation & collections care at Bolton including technicians, mount makers and others will be expected to work to this policy. Specialists may be managed by Bolton’s conservator when working on collections care/conservation projects and or other members of the collections team when working on exhibitions / more design based work.

10. Interns, student placements & Volunteers

Conservator will mentor any student placements, interns or volunteers working on the conservation and collections care of Bolton’s collections all will be expected to work to this policy. Bolton’s Conservator will train all students, interns and volunteers before they begin work covering;

  • Projects they will be working on
  • Basic Museum induction
  • Object handling
  • Object packing & moving
  • Pest identification

11. Freelance Collections care professionals renting space in Bolton’s Conservation Laboratories & workshops

Individuals renting space will be expected to adhere to this Conservation & Collections care policy. Objects brought into Bolton’s facilities for treatment will need to be covered by insurance this may be provided by the freelancer, the owners of the items or under Bolton Councils insurance where negotiated with the senior management. A copy of the insurance document proving cover for the items will need to be filed with museum management.

Personal and Public liability insurance will also need to be held by any freelancers working on Bolton’s sites.

A contract will be drawn up between Bolton Library & Museum Service and freelancers renting space to cover the following areas:

  • Security & Access to premises
  • IT provision
  • Use of conservation lab space
  • Use of lab equipment
  • Use and replacement of consumable conservation materials
  • Availability and cost of technician support
  • Availability and cost of support from Bolton’s conservator
  • Insurance
  • Confidentiality