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Sunday, May 15 • 2:30pm - 3:00pm
(Collection Care) Stuff happens, so what?  Condition changes and loss of value in archival records

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Conservators know that cultural property is constantly changing. As part of our preventive conservation work we try to slow down unwanted physical changes by managing the agents of deterioration to reduce the probability and the potential consequences of those changes. Many different kinds of value can be perceived in a single object and stakeholders may also have competing perceptions of value. Our resources are limited, so it makes sense to use them where they can be most effective within our area of responsibility – preserving what’s valued by our stakeholders by preventing the physical changes most likely to reduce that value for our stakeholders. This paper discusses the results of a series of exercises to quantify the relative loss of archival value resulting from a variety of physical changes to a range of archival materials. The initial exercise in 2007 was done with archivists responsible for government and private records at the Archives of Manitoba. A historic context scenario was provided and sample items in a variety of analogue media commonly found in archives and exhibiting a variety of types of physical changes were rated on a ten point scale, from no value remaining to no value lost. The types of records considered included manuscript documents, bound volumes, photographs and photo albums, and audio recordings. The types of change considered included mould, stains, cracks, tears, losses, colour shift, deformations, missing elements and musty smells. The agents of deterioration responsible for these changes included physical forces, water, pests, pollutants, light, particulates, dissociation and incorrect relative humidity and temperature. This exercise has been repeated annually with the students in the local Archival Studies program with only minor modifications to the objects and the scenario, and with very similar results. The general areas of agreement and contention regarding the amount of archival value lost in these objects as a result of these changes will be highlighted in the presentation. The presentation will also discuss the implications and practical applications of the results. At the Archives the results were used to create a decision guide to strategically direct resources to the conditions and risks that the archivists had identified as having the greatest potential negative impact on the archival value of records. For the students the exercise builds competency in thinking about materiality in archival record and in understanding changes, as well as introducing them to the agents of deterioration, risk assessment, and the role of preservation/conservation in maintaining, adding and restoring value in archival records.

Speakers
avatar for Ala Rekrut

Ala Rekrut

Manager, Preservation Services, Archives of Manitoba
Ala Rekrut came to archives with a background in visual art and theater and experience in museums and arts administration. She completed her Master of Art Conservation degree at Queen’s University, and interned at the National Gallery and at the National Archives of Canada before joining the staff of the Archives of Manitoba. Ala has been the Manager of Preservation Services at the Archives of Manitoba since 1998. In 2009 she obtained a... Read More →


Sunday May 15, 2016 2:30pm - 3:00pm
Room 516 AB


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