The Research Agenda 2008-2012 includes five research programmes focussing on collection-management. Their binding factor is ‘valuation’.
Development of methods and techniques to objectify the value and appreciation of cultural heritage.more info >
Under 'valuation' in relation to heritage we mean making substantiated and verifiable statements about the value of an object or a collection, based on a question falling under an appropriate frame of reference and concerning certain stakeholders. Predetermined and predefined criteria are applied.
This explicit defining of an assigned value is necessary to steer preservation, development and utilisation and to enable a societal basis for heritage to emerge. After all, who determines the value of the collection now that the 'expert' no longer counts as the sole authority? How do you valuate an object or collection if there is no objective measurable value? How do you provide sufficient societal support for heritage at a time when the cultural sector is under pressure?
The Value and Valuation programme aimed to make the various players in the heritage field (owners, managers, policy makers and funders) aware of the importance of the intrinsic (non-financial) value and valuation of cultural heritage, and to develop methods and techniques to attribute value to objects and collections. As valuation benefits from a broad interdisciplinary approach, the emphasis lay on dialogue and collaboration with external partners. A new system was developed in close consultation with the museum world to facilitate the process of value attribution. This has resulted in the publication of On the museum scales: collection valuation in six steps.
This practical guide takes the user through the valuation process step-by-step and results in a description of object/collection significance, a valuation ranking or grouping, or an investment plan. With well-founded arguments it is possible to explain to others the value of an object or collection and the reasons for the value. This facilitates decision-making on interventions, making conflicting interests negotiable and making stories behind the collection accessible.
Research into the effectiveness of methods and means to make heritage and related knowledge accessible online.more info >
New media forms a tempting alternative to traditional analogue guides for the public as staff and resources in museums are generally scarce. But do they function as well or better than gallery texts, guided or audio tours?
Are some applications more effective than others? Are there any applications that actually generate more visitors, and if so, which?
The Accessibility programme focused on the effectiveness of virtual resources to make heritage visible and to interest new types of public. Possibilities include apps, 3D and AR techniques, and also social media like Facebook and YouTube. But what to choose from the overwhelming number of new techniques?
The RCE carried out an inventory to provide collection managers with an understanding of the developments and possibilities of new media (and the institutions that can assist in developing applications). This also aimed to chart the applications most effective for specific objectives for both content and generating visitors. The projects on which these questions were tested were diverse in nature:
- Conservation of two textile objects of polypropylene. In this project, the practical applicability of conservation knowledge about polypropylene was tested. In addition a conservation treatment of polypropylene was recorded for educational objectives and the conservation file placed online. As a result, both the object and the information are permanently accessible for consultation by collection managers and conservators.
- Imago revisited: research into two installations in a case study using good practice (developed during the Inside Installations project) regarding the daily and long-term management of complex (multimedia) installations.
- Generating and sharing knowledge online about the conservation of contemporary art in the two-year European project PRACTICs by museums, institutes and universities. Associated with this was a public testing of the film Installation Art: Who Cares? as an educational tool, to investigate how much visitors appreciated having a look 'behind the scenes'.
- CARTA project, an inventory of documentation projects and documentation systems with which research findings are linked to locations and artworks.
- Inventory of the operation of two thematic networks (INCCA Education and Postdoc Network) under INCCA.
- Archiving the website with all details of the Inside Installations project, the preservation and presentation of Installation Art Project (2004-2007), a research into the re-installation and documentation of 33 complex multimedia installations.
- Participation of the RCE as a research partner in the pilot project of MuseumApp, under which the effectiveness of this app for heritage institutions was studied.
- Development of guidelines to increase the effectiveness of museum institutions online.
Enrichment of the object in its context on the basis of technical art history and research, for the benefit of its conservation and restoration.more info >
Objects that have been handed down to us from the past can tell a story of their history of creation and how they have changed over time.
The Object in Context programme makes such stories accessible through research on the material object and its contextual clues (historical evidence). In addition, the program focuses on questions concerning the restoration and conservation of a range of objects, from classical antiquity to contemporary art, from paintings and textiles to metal and plastics.
Under Object in Context, analytical chemistry researchers and forensic specialists delve into cause and effect. Besides a keen eye for detail, they employ a research laboratory and technological methods that enable the visualization of evidence visible only at a molecular level. Although analytical research often forms the basis for research, collaboration with other disciplines, such as art and cultural history, is always sought as well.
Arts meets sciences
A connecting link between the many projects under Object in Context is the extent to which ageing is regarded as acceptable. That limit of acceptance is subjective and cannot be considered purely from the material-technical perspective. Thus the theme of 'perception of the surface' is key in several projects. This involves coupling the scientific 'looking' through apparatus with subjective, human visual perception.
Download here the comprehensive introduction to the Object in Context program, including an introduction to the projects in PDF.
Quantitative research on composition, use and policies concerning museum collections.more info >
In the museum sector, procedures and processes of collection management are analysed using figures and indicators to only a limited extent. As a result, decisions are often based on impressions or tradition.
Ad hoc quantitative analyses have been performed in recent years. Again and again it has proved difficult to generate reliable figures.
When comparing museums it was also revealed that the number of variables arising form an almost insurmountable barrier for benchmarking. The RCE therefore opted for a structural, long-term program with the focus on a statistical approach to research questions concerning collection management.
Under the Museometry programme, quantitative research is conducted on the composition, use and exploitation of museum collections. Trends and developments are distilled from the collected facts and figures on museum collections (museometry). The resulting figures and analyses are made available for the museum professionals and managers responsible for museum collections. In turn, they use this quantitative data for the formulation of various policies concerning these collections. In this way museometry contributes to evidence-based management (EBM) in the museum sector.
Projects under this program include:
- The Loan Monitor: a website that visualises on a map loan movements between national and international museums for exhibitions.
- The Modern Art Collection Audit (CMBK), a statistical analysis of how Netherlands museums have collected modern art from 1999 to 2009. The database, comprising acquisition data from about 40 museums with relevant collections of modern art, makes statistically based statements possible about the collection policy of the museums.
- The 20th century Artist Index, in which major artists are inventoried from the period 1870 to the present.
- Completion and verification of available data on international collection mobility, accessibility and cultural participation arising from the implementation of the indemnity scheme.
- An inventory and analysis of museum annual reports.
A user-friendly method for heritage managers to assess and manage risks themselves.more info >
The Collection risk management (CRM) program is aimed at minimizing the loss of value at the interface between preservation and use. The existing CRM methodology has been tested in different situations, developed and simplified in order to bring it within reach of smaller institutions with limited time and resources.
To this end, new instruments were developed and information necessary to quantify the various risks was generated and made available in the convenient form of a digital manual. The program concluded with an international meeting on risk management.
Risk management examines all the threats to which collections are exposed and combines preventive conservation, security and facility management. This forms the next step in the professionalization of collection preservation and management. In applying this strategy, the risks for a collection are identified, analysed and evaluated. These risks can then be compared on the basis of the expected value loss over a given period (risk assessment) and ranged to set priorities for measures to reduce this loss of value. This aids the collection manager in making informed and substantiated choices in the deployment of the often limited resources available to collection management.
Under the CRM program, the methodology was tested in case studies, courses and workshops, then further developed and simplified so that smaller institutions with limited time, resources and knowledge can also gain insight into their own situation. To this end knowledge must be generated to qualify or quantify the various risks and ultimately made available in a usable form. This process was carried out in a number of projects under the program. Knowledge development and deployment of the indemnity scheme also fell under this program. The field of security risks and calamities was covered in collaboration with the Safe Heritage programme.
The before-mentioned knowledge and instruments are for the most part collated in the Digital Collection Risk Management Manual. This describes the methodology step-by-step, provides instruments for conducting a risk analysis and sets out the available information on the ten most important damage factors. In this way, the user is able to carry out a risk analysis with their team. The Manual helps in formulating the right questions for external experts.
Two projects under the program were intended to generate data to aid in assessing risk scenarios and to determine extent of risk. On the one hand quantitative information was collected for events that could lead to loss of value (damage factors of fire, theft and vandalism, mechanical forces and water), and on the other, degradation processes (damage factors of climate, light, mechanical forces vibration and air pollution/dust). In addition, a model was developed under the Cost Effectiveness project for determining the cost-effectiveness of conservation measures.
Research on Paper
Finally the Metamorfoze project (National Programme for the Conservation of Paper Heritage) sought solutions for the preservation and treatment of original paper documents. The research focused on inherent deterioration such as ink corrosion, the usefulness (or uselessness) of air purification in depots and the development of a portable instrument for the on-the-spot determination of light sensitivity of objects.
The CRM programme concluded in 2012 with the meeting Reducing Risks to Heritage in collaboration with ICCROM and CCI.
Application that guides the user through the CRM methodology and assists them in controlling risks in collection preservation.
Simplification of CRM methodology and development of instruments to independently perform risk analyses.
International risk management courses to test and further develop concepts, methodology and tools with users.
Generation of information to assist in risk scenarios and the determination of the magnitude of risk for degradation processes.
Research into the risks of an incorrect indoor climate.
Development of a method for measuring the rate of dust accumulation in collections and to determine its origin.
Data collection and development of methods for the assessment of vibration risks and the formulation of protective measures.
Generation of data on probability, frequency and impact of events (disasters and incidents) for use in risk management methodology.
Development of a model for determining the cost effectiveness of conservation treatments and measures.
Metamorfoze: The National Programme for the Conservation of Heritage on Paper.
Development of treatment strategies for manuscripts and drawings with iron gall ink.Project
How worthwhile is air purification for the preservation of paper?Project
Development of a portable instrument to determine the light sensitivity of objects.Project
Decision-making for conservation strategies using Metamorfoze subsidiesReading modeshare
Dutch heritage institutions can apply for financial support for large-scale digitization and preservation of paper collections of national significance from Metamorfoze, the National Programme for the Preservation of Paper Heritage.
Applications are accompanied by important decisions that need to be made in consultation regarding the selection of materials, conservation treatments to be carried out, and the digitizing method. These decisions are difficult particularly because no treatment is without side effects.
Quality and quantity
Nowhere are quality and quantity so directly in confrontation as in the current (and increasingly digitalising) world of archives and libraries. What is treatment quality when dealing with metres of unique and fragile archival material? On the basis of six case studies, this project mapped out how Metamorfoze grants were utilised in order to achieve an overview of opinions on the quality of conservation treatments and to enable the making of recommendations.
Which treatment strategy was chosen based on which arguments? When? By whom? How did the course of that process run? What was the result?
Important new insights were gained through the direct involvement of the researchers with conservators, collection managers, and of course the objects themselves. The probability of a satisfactory treatment result is determined by the quality of the treatment decision process. The attention should be less focused on the outcomes and more on the decision-making process. Analysis of the decision makes it possible to indicate the weakest link, and to look there for possible improvement.
The six elements of decision quality are:
- What do we want?
- What do we know?
- What can we do?
- Will this solve the right problem?
- Are all the decision-makers involved?
- Are we making a logical analysis?
This set of questions should be answered iteratively. The answer to one question raises new insights about another. For example, research into the side effects of different treatments revealed that, in almost all cases, a clear assessment of the baseline risk was lacking. Thus the consideration of the pros and cons of the treatment strategy was impossible.
Three times 'yes'
This method of analysis leads to the concise 'triple yes principle' concerning the risk aspects of conservation decisions. A conservation treatment is only prudent when the following three questions can be answered with 'yes':
- Is there a significant baseline risk?
- Is the proposed treatment effective in regard to the reduction of the risk?
- Are the side effects sufficiently minor?
Porck, H., F. J. Ligterink, C. Phan Tan Luu, B. Reissland en G. Beentjes, ‘Creating Better Decisions: Value-Based Decision-Making in Paper Conservation’, in: papers XIIth IADA Congress Bern 2011 (Bern), 2011, p. 12.
Metamorfoze is het Nationaal Programma voor het Behoud van het Papieren Erfgoed, een samenwerkingsverband tussen de Koninklijke Bibliotheek en het Nationaal Archief. Het programma is een initiatief van het Ministerie van OCW.
Birgit Reissland, Henk Porck en Claire Phan-Tan-Luu, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Den Haag; Gabriëlle Beentjes, Nationaal Archief, Den Haag
Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Den Haag; Nationaal Archief, Den Haag
Metamorfoze, the national program for the preservation of paper heritage.Project
Evaluation of the indemnity and guarantee scheme and development of a security test.