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Friday, May 30 • 4:00pm - 4:20pm
(Engaging Communities in Collection Care Session) Using Webinars to Tackle Conservation Misinformation in Ontario’s Community Museums

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Misunderstandings of basic conservation concepts can form a considerable barrier to collection care. Anecdotally, conservators know this to be true. In Ontario, Canada, a recent exercise demonstrated the prevalence of conservation misinformation in the province and its links to challenges in collection preservation. Two webinars were conceived to clarify a selection of conservation concepts and to help museums implement sustainable preventive conservation strategies.

From 2011 to 2013, Ontario’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport audited recipients of museum operating grants to determine whether eligibility criteria were being met. These criteria include basic preventive conservation practices as outlined in the Standards for Community Museums in Ontario. The 190 museums in the grant program completed questionnaires on their adherence to the Standards and submitted them to the Ministry for review. The museums’ responses revealed a number of common misunderstandings. These included:

  • Conservation in museums consists solely of treatment, with no reference to preventive conservation

  • Reducing the risk of light damage consists solely of eliminating ultraviolet, with no reference to visible light or exposure time

  • Fluctuating and cool temperatures are inevitably harmful to collections

  • All collections need year-round 50% relative humidity

  • Monitoring and controlling are interchangeable terms and actions

  • Acid-free materials stay acid-free forever

  • Controlling pests involves the use of pesticides

  • It was clear that Ontario’s museum community would benefit from a refresher course in collections care. Given the size of the province - over 415, 000 square miles or approximately twice the size of Texas – online learning has proven to be a cost-effective and popular option. The Ministry therefore partnered with the Ontario Museum Association (OMA) to deliver two webinars: Conservation 2.0 and Climate Control: What do you really need?

    Participation was free and open to all, including museums that are not part of the operating grant program as well as museums in other provinces. The webinars each attracted approximately 60 participants. Participants simultaneously viewed a Microsoft PowerPoint™ presentation and listened live to the conservator discussing the slides. The conservator also answered texted questions in real time. The presentations and audio recordings were subsequently posted to the OMA website where they remain accessible. Feedback has been positive.

    The cost of developing and delivering the webinars was relatively low. The only cost to participants was two hours of their time. The effectiveness of the webinars is already being seen by the Ministry’s advisors in their day-to-day interaction with Ontario’s museums and will be judged more comprehensively when the Ministry administers its next museum standards audit. As a means of correcting common conservation misunderstandings and thereby promoting more sustainable conservation choices, the webinar appears to be a useful tool.

Session Moderator(s)
avatar for Margaret Holben Ellis, [Fellow]

Margaret Holben Ellis, [Fellow]

Eugene Thaw Professor of Paper Conservation, NYU Institute of Fine Arts
Margaret Holben Ellis received her Bachelor’s Degree in Art History from Barnard College, Columbia University (1975) and completed her Master’s Degree in Art History and Advanced Certificate in Conservation at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University (1979). In... Read More →
avatar for Dr. Joelle D. J. Wickens, [PA]

Dr. Joelle D. J. Wickens, [PA]

Conservator, Preventive Team Head and University of Delaware Affiliated Assistant Professor, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Joelle Wickens is the Conservator and Preventive Team Head at Winterthur Museum & Country Estate and a University of Delaware Affiliated Assistant Professor in Art Conservation for the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. She gained an MA (Distinction) in... Read More →

avatar for Fiona Graham

Fiona Graham

Adjunct Professor, Queen's University, Art Conservation Program
Fiona Graham is a conservator specializing in preventive conservation and with an interest in metals conservation dating back to her graduate research on bronze patinas. She has a Master's degree in Art Conservation (Artifacts) from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and is accredited... Read More →

Friday May 30, 2014 4:00pm - 4:20pm PDT
Grand Ballroom B-C