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Saturday, May 31 • 1:30pm - 2:20pm
(Health and Safety Session) Medical Evaluations for Museum and Collection Care Professionals

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Museum and collection professionals work with a number of well-known health hazards and conditions that can cause health risks and disease. Most physicians are poorly informed about the hazards faced by these professionals and may have little understanding of the workplace risks they face. A growing body of literature is available to help improve this understanding.

This session will focus on evaluating collection and conservation workplace hazards, with an emphasis on maintaining work histories, methods and records of chemicals used, in order to best communicate that information to a healthcare provider. This information is an important tool in designing and scheduling an appropriate health care surveillance to assess and prevent health problems related to these exposures. The session will also look at appropriate physician groups for these evaluations, including the field of Occupational Medicine. Several case studies from The Field Museum, Chicago, will be presented illustrating the benefits of collaborating with health care professionals.

As was common practice in the 19th and 20th centuries, residual pesticides were applied to collections in efforts to protect the collections from, primarily, arthropod and rodent damage. A number of Field Museum conservators over the last 25 years contributed to a history of pesticide usage at the museum, particularly the Anthropology collections. Safety procedures were developed by the Museum collections and conservation staff and the Museum occupational health and safety officer, and relied heavily on procedures used in other institutions with similar collections. Tests and evaluations by conservators, industrial hygienists and medical professionals over the last 12 years have led to a better understanding of what pesticides are likely to be found, where pesticide hazards are likely to be found, what exposure levels have been detected in staff and facilities, and what improvements in staff procedures can further reduce risk. The program was a cooperative effort between medical professionals and museum staff, who provided information on pesticide history, collection handling and personal protection procedures, results of all prior testing, and access to observe staff work environment and procedures. Medical professionals developed and implemented the test programs, provided and interpreted results, and prepared recommendations on improvements in facilities and work practice. Communication during test development, implementation and sharing of results was critical to the effectiveness of the program and the comfort level of staff both during testing and in the results.

Another case study addressed the problem of lead-based paint on a Maori House which is on open display and is culturally intended to be touched. A mitigation program was developed, involving conservation treatment to isolate lead paint, and a testing program to monitor treatment effectiveness. Conservation staff, industrial hygienists, the Museum safety officer and medical professionals successfully collaborated to solve a health and safety problem with additional layers of public exposure prevention and working with traditional owners (the Maori community).

avatar for David Hinkamp

David Hinkamp

Co-Director Health in the Arts Program, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago
David Hinkamp MD, MPH (University of Michigan) is Board Certified in Occupational & Environmental Medicine. Dr. Hinkamp founded and serves as co-director of the Health in the Arts Program in the University of Illinois at Chicago and Cook County Hospital. This program works to prevent... Read More →

Ruth Norton

McCarter Chief Conservator, Field Museum
Ruth E. Norton FIIC FAIC, MS Art Conservation, University of Delaware 1978. She practiced and provided conservation training at the Bishop Museum, Honolulu; the National Museum of the Philippines, Manila; University of Sydney excavation at Pella-in-Jordan; Museum of Applied Arts and... Read More →

Saturday May 31, 2014 1:30pm - 2:20pm PDT
Pacific Concourse F-G