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Treatment decisions using Metamorfoze subsidies

Decision-making for conservation strategies using Metamorfoze subsidies

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.

Case Study NAI Rotterdam

Case Study NAI Rotterdam

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.

Decision Quality

The six elements of decision quality are:

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':