Preventive Conservation

Preventive Conservation, in its modern sense, is a relatively new form of conservation. Often called Collection Care, Preventive Conservation aims to facilitate and prolong the life of a collection.

Under usual conditions, any collection of objects is susceptible to damage and deterioration. Issues such as the chemical make-up of an object often lead to it’s own demise, and environmental factors, such as light, moisture, humidity or temperature can add to, or accelerate this degradation. The way we access, interact with, or view these objects can further add to these effects.

While remedial conservation (repairing or restoring) addresses the effects of this damage, it is an unsatisfactory measure: the time taken to repair; the cost; and compromises in strength, integrity and appearance, mean that for every remedial measure, there are dozens or hundreds more that are left unaddressed.

The cost and time effective solution recognized around the world, is to slow-down, minimize or remove the factors that will deteriorate heritage collections. This is the aim of Preventive Conservation. Taking indirect action, Preventive Conservation considers the measures taken at every step under care. Steps such as storage and handling, transportation, security, environmental management (light, humidity, pollution and pest control), emergency planning, and education of carers/users, all have issues to work through, to ensure proper care.

Instituting an effective Preventive Conservation plan will save needless damage to any collection. Considering the risks and costs associated with incorrect care, and remedial measures afterwards, Preventive Conservation should be a foundation step to setting up any collection of heritage items, and ensuring the safekeeping of existing collections.