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Learning to take care of artifacts

Professionals from the Science Museum of Minnesota, USA, are in Belize collaborating with collectors and custodians to more efficiently catalog historical artifacts and better be prepared for a natural disaster. The three-day Collections Management and Disaster Preparedness and Recovery” gathering aims to orient participants on the fundamentals of Collections Management. Facilitator Rebecca Newberry told us more.

Rebecca Newberry Facilitator: For Disaster Preparedness and Risk Management the best thing a person who holds collections or who has museums that hold collections is to be prepared so it’s to have good documentation, know where things are, to know who is responsible, to have contact information for those people and then to know what you need to do to prepare for when a hurricane’s coming. If you are in a two story building for example you can always move your collections to the second floor, put up hurricane shutters, the same thing you would do for your home but you want to be even more careful with a museum collection also knowing if you can contact or already have contacted your local emergency people Police and Fire Department so that they are familiar with your building and your collection and then knowing how to recover those collections should they be damaged so knowing you have resources if you have to freeze things for example because they are wet and you can’t dry them out quickly, you don’t want them to mold.

Hipolito Novelo: How do you safeguard antiques for instance exhibits at the museum of Belize. How do you safeguard?

Rebecca Newberry Facilitator: So we take what is called a Preventive Conservation Approach to collections care so that’s thinking about all the different ways objects can be damaged and looking at ways  to prevent that damage from happening so for example things can be damaged if they are dropped on the floor so we train staff to handle things properly and when we put things on exhibit in a case, we make sure that case is strong and safe and it can’t be knocked over and that the object inside of it has a mount underneath it so the object can’t fall over in the case or for example if it is something that might fade like a textile, we are not going to put that next to an open window where sunlight might fade it so its thinking about where you are displaying things or storing them and how you can prevent things like breaking them, fading, insects, or pests eating them, its things like that, it’s putting procedures in place making sure that your building is in good shape and making sure that you have got ways to protect things within the building.

Participants include employees of the Museum of Belize and members of the Belize Association of Museums. Director of the Museum of Belize Alexis Salazar says the training helps in the improvement of an existing risk management plan.

Alexis Salazar Director of Museum: It is an exchange of Knowledge between our Museum and the Museum in Minnesota where as it allows us to follow a sort of Museum standard so we are up to standard with any other Museum when it comes to having a Risk Management Plan, having an inventory of items and where it is found within the Museum so it’s just to have a standardized practice. It is a long term process so this is sort of the fourth sort of training we had with the handling of Artifacts. We did bio deterrent agents before, we did a Risk Management one before and then we did a collection so what we did went to the members of BAM and we asked them and we surveyed them and said what would you like to know more about and based on that we do training so we are going to do that process again next year ask them was this workshop useful? What other things would be useful for the setup of your displays and so on and based on that we try and partner with the Minnesota Science Museum and carry out that training.

Hipolito Novelo: I would imagine that this workshop comes in handy at this time since we are in the Hurricane season?

Alexis Salazar Director of Museum: Yea it’s good that we did it at the start, well we have certain protocols when it comes to moving artifacts and so on well before there is an actual threat of a Hurricane so yes it comes in handy not only for the museum but for other small group of collectors.

The training session ends tomorrow.