Network Activity C - Collections Standards

NA C will improve access to European natural history collections and botanical gardens by helping to standardise collections management practises. There are several steps in achieving this aim. Firstly a review of existing collections standards was needed, then the status of European collections had to be assessed. This was achieved by developing a SYNTHESYS collection benchmark and detailed assessment methodology.

Once NA C was aware of the status of European collections it began a process of training European collections managers and providing them with the tools to improve the standards to which they maintain their collections

Aims and objectives

NA C will establish a network of European collections managers that will encourage the active participation of all European countries in the long-term preservation, targeted development and wide use of their collections and inherent information. Partner institutions will identify the best collections and the most appropriate techniques used across Europe, as well as those collections currently using poor standards of collection care and management.

  • Improve conservation, management and ethical standards for the maintenance of natural science materials and their associated archives
  • Ensure the extended preservation of European collections using preservative and remedial strategies and ensure the long term security of collections
  • Increase and improve collection management systems
  • Improve access and marketing of collections

Progress report

Collections Standards

A draft report has been compiled based on the results of a survey of existing standards, health & safety issues and assessment methods. This is currently being used as a basis to develop a draft European standard. Draft review of Standards and Benchmarks

Collections Assessments

From the standards a methodology for surveying collections was devised and has been used as a basis for assessing selected partner institutions. A SYNTHESYS benchmark was also conceived – this represents the standard that most institutions would be expected to meet, where the collections management processes should be such as to ensure the mid to long term preservation of the collections.

The assessment process involved a panel of experienced museum staff visiting an institution for a week, viewing collections areas, looking at existing policies and interviewing a range of staff, from curators to finance and security staff. The panel then completed a questionnaire, the results of which showed if the museum has reached the SYNTHESYS benchmark

Two pilot assessments and 15 complete assessments have taken place. Detailed reports have been sent to the Directors of the assessed institutions. Recommendations are included in the report when an institution has not met the SYNTHESYS benchmark.

A step change in collections management standards was achieved, in part, as the assessment data has been utilised by some institutions to successfully lobby for additional funding to raise standards. Others have used the results to change polices and practices internally to enhance collections care and access to Users.

The results and details of the methodology will be published in late 2009.

Training Courses in Collection Management, Conservation and Care of Natural History Collections

The results of the collections assessments were used to inform and develop a training course in Management, Conservation and Care of Natural History Collections. Three courses have taken place so far, with 43 individuals from 14 European institutions trained to date.

Disaster Planning

Two meetings to discuss issues surrounding disaster planning in natural history collections have taken place at the Museo National de Ciencias Naturales, Madrid. These meeting have been held with representatives of NA E so that the needs of molecular collections are also considered.

Draft reports and planning checklists are now available (see outputs below)

Broadening the User Base

In the light of their common work on access and use of natural history collections EDIT and SYNTHESYS held the workshop “Broadening the user base of natural history collections” on November 4-5 2008, in Brussels. The rationale of the workshop was to develop further insights in the opportunities and barriers for uses of collections by different user communities. Within this context EDIT and SYNTHESYS brought together users, managers and other stakeholders of natural history collections. The following subjects and questions were on the agenda: 1) trends and current uses of collections; 2) managing collections; 3) mechanisms to broaden the use of natural history collections. Recommendations were drafted on how the proposed mechanisms could be implemented and by whom they should be implemented.
Report on broadening the User Base

Outcomes and deliverables

Collections Standards

A Draft report has been compiled based on the results of a survey of existing standards, health & safety issues and assessment methods.
A draft review of Standards and Benchmarks

Collections Assessments

Two pilot assessments and 15 complete assessments have taken place. Detailed reports have been sent to the Directors of the assessed institutions. A step change in collections management standards was achieved, in part, as the assessment data has been utilised by some institutions to successfully lobby for additional funding to raise standards. Others have used the results to change polices and practices internally to enhance collections care and access to Users.

The assessment methodology has been presented at SPNHC. See presentation.

Report and publications due late 2009

Training Courses in Collection Management, Conservation and Care of Natural History Collections

Three training courses have been run with 43 individuals from 14 European institutions trained.

A copy of the training manual will be sent to all training course delegates in August 2009

European disaster planning

Developing a disaster plan (DRAFT)
Distaster planning Checklist
Developing a disaster plan for molecular collections (DRAFT)
Distaster plan checklist for molecular collections

Broadening the User Base

A conference entitled 'Broadening the User base' meeting took place in conjunction with EDIT on the 4-5 Nov 2008 at the Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences. Meeting report.

Events

There are no further events planned in NA C. There will be training course in NA 2 starting in 2010

The results of NA C were presented at SPNHC 2009 (Leiden, July 2009)

Where next

The majority of NA C work will be continued in the FP7 contract of SYNTHESYS and will be known as NA2

  • Collections Standards
    The work will continue to be developed in NA 2
  • Collections Assessments
    NA2 will create a self-assessment tool to greatly increase the report of collections status in Europe by enabling the wider European community to measure themselves against the SYNTHESYS benchmark.
  • Training Courses in Collection Management, Conservation and Care of Natural History Collections
    NA 2 will provide training courses in specific areas of collection management, for example integrated pest management. NA 2 will also run training courses for museum staff that wish to become collections management trainers.
  • Disaster Planning
    The work will continue to be developed in NA 2
  • Broadening the User Bas
    e Recommendation on how natural history institutions can broaden their User Base was sent to the EDIT Board of Directors. EDIT will continue with this work.