Conservation and preservation audits, and collection condition surveys
It is now an accepted principle that any organisation with an archive, library or art collection should undertake a collection survey (also referred to as a conservation audit or preservation assessment). Not only will this provide an accurate guide to the current condition of a collection, but it will also provide an analysis of it’s conservation and preservation requirements.
Over the last three decades I have, on average, undertaken one collection condition survey every year. I am first and foremost a bench conservator, and this is reflected in the type of survey I offer. I believe that information regarding levels of damage and decay within a collection, however it is gathered and presented, is meaningless without accompanying time and cost estimates for appropriate conservation and preservation interventions and strategies. Likewise, a survey that does not suggest a timetabled programme of treatments and activities is not very helpful, in that it tells you what is wrong, but not the order in which to put things right.
My last survey, completed at the beginning of 2019, examined a large archive collection consisting of over 1,500 assorted boxes of papers, and over 20,000 volumes. By looking at the contents of 15% of the boxes and 5% of the books, I was able to report on the condition of the collection, assess its conservation and preservation requirements, and provide a timetabled and fully costed treatment programme.