Treatment > Housekeeping

Definition

"...a regular, supervised cleaning programme, which is carried out with care, will help to ensure the protection of collections against particulate pollutants....

"The cleaning programme should include the examination of collections not only to provide early warning of biological (mould and insects) or chemical (brittle paper, red rot, acidity ) damage but also to observe conditions throughout the area."

Housekeeping, Library Preservation Services, University of Oxford

"It is important to remember that in many ways, the people performing the housekeeping tasks see and examine collection items more often and more regularly than anyone else on staff. They definitely see and examine the collection storage and exhibit spaces more frequently and more carefully than anyone else. In this way, they form the 'front line' in the defense of the collection. For example, with proper training they can be alert to signs of insect infestation (such as the presence of frass on shelving), or obvious signs of damage or condition problems in need of immediate attention. Do not underestimate the importance of the housekeeper in collection preservation..."

"A critically important part of any housekeeping plan is a formal reporting system for the cleaning staff to report back to the supervisor and/or the conservator any observations or concerns about the collections or spaces where collections are found. A...system...for the supervisory staff is important. Dates and locations of problems should be recorded and any follow up or corrective measures should be noted. Also be sure that the cleaning staff feels free to bring up any issues..."

Personnel, Lesson 8: Preservation Planning, Preservation 101: An Internet Course on Paper Preservation, Northeast Document Conservation Center.

"An approved Museum Housekeeping Plan provides a framework for consistent care of museum objects. It institutionalizes a preventive conservation program... Preventive conservation, the primary goal of housekeeping, aims to prevent damage to museum collections."

"In the context of museum collections management, the term 'housekeeping' is defined as all of the ongoing actions (tasks) to preserve museum objects, archives, and museum records. Housekeeping is planning and monitoring, as much as it is hands-on collections care. Housekeeping requires looking as much as doing. Knowing when not to clean is as important as knowing when and how to clean."

"Preventive conservation is the ongoing activity of non-invasive actions taken to prevent damage to and minimize deterioration of museum objects. Housekeeping, executed faithfully and with professional judgment, is a crucial component of preventive conservation."

"A neat and clean museum will be the result of housekeeping, but it is not the only goal. Think of museum housekeeping as preventive conservation. You and your staff are trying to prevent damage to museum objects before it occurs."

Ch. 13: Museum Housekeeping (download PDF format file), Museum Handbook, Part I: Museum Collections, NPS Museum Handbook, Part I, National Park Service, 1998, pp. 3-9.

Scope

"Housekeeping involves such tasks as:

  1. building and site care
  2. monitoring the effectiveness of environmental controls
  3. monitoring and recording light, temperature, and relative humidity
    levels
  4. monitoring for pests
  5. cleaning or replacing filters in air handling units
  6. monitoring the condition of museum objects
  7. dusting
  8. vacuuming
  9. applying protective waxes

Housekeeping is a major, and very challenging, part of a collections management program.

  1. It will greatly increase or greatly decrease the life of museum objects.
  2. It requires direct contact with museum objects.
  3. It is time consuming."

"Good museum housekeeping minimizes deterioration of objects by focusing on preventive care. Housekeeping relies on blocking the agents that deteriorate artifacts, such as pests, pollutants, and UV light, and monitoring to be sure that preventive actions are working. It enables you to inspect your collection on a routine basis so that deterioration can be detected early. Only when preventive techniques have failed, will cleaning need to be carried out.

"If you approach housekeeping with this preventive approach in mind, instead of as a series of hands-on tasks, you will minimize damage to artifacts. In the long run you will also save a lot of time."

"...the significant difference between housekeeping at home and housekeeping in museums is the goal of preservation. Approach cleaning spaces that house museum collections from a different point of view.

Consider:

  1. the nature and condition of objects
  2. cleaning materials and methods appropriate to object preservation
  3. signs of object deterioration
  4. interpretive effects in exhibits and furnished historic rooms"

    Ch. 13: Museum Housekeeping (download PDF format file), Museum Handbook, Part I: Museum Collections, NPS Museum Handbook, Part I, National Park Service, 1998, pp. 3-5

"Housekeeping Plan

A staff curator, collateral duty curator, or contractor who has expertise in the preventive care of museum objects should write the housekeeping plan.

The production of the plan should include all staff who will have
housekeeping responsibilities. If the plan is written by someone other than the curator, the plan should be reviewed and recommended by the curator before approval by the superintendent. You can use the sample format presented here or contact your Support Office curator for other formats that
have been used successfully in parks.

The Museum Housekeeping Plan sets up a schedule for preventive treatments. It serves as a reminder of what needs to be done and, generally, how often it needs to be done. The Museum Housekeeping Plan:

  1. considers the nature and condition of museum collections
  2. identifies the location of museum collections
  3. identifies both routine housekeeping tasks and special housekeeping projects
  4. identifies equipment, materials, and techniques for carrying out
    housekeeping tasks
  5. identifies staff persons responsible for carrying out housekeeping tasks
  6. establishes a schedule for completing the tasks
  7. records completed tasks.

An approved Museum Housekeeping Plan provides a framework for consistent care of museum objects. It institutionalizes a preventive conservation program. The preservation of the museum collection depends on adherence to the plan by the entire park staff over time. No single employee is responsible for care of the objects. The plan is based on the idea that preventive conservation is an ongoing process — not a product."

"You can minimize the need for conservation treatment by
implementing a museum housekeeping program in all spaces that house museum objects, such as:

  1. exhibit spaces
  2. historic furnished rooms
  3. storage spaces
  4. curatorial offices
  5. research services spaces
  6. other work spaces

Each space will require a slightly different approach to cleaning that takes into account how objects are stored and used."

Ch. 13: Museum Housekeeping (download PDF format file), Museum Handbook, Part I: Museum Collections, NPS Museum Handbook, Part I, National Park Service, 1998, pp. 2-5.

"The practice of good housekeeping is probably the most simple and inexpensive method of preventive conservation for any type of collection. Housekeeping will keep debris from gathering on and around objects in your collection. By keeping collections clean, you reduce the risk of damage from abrasion, reduce the risk of pest infestation, and greatly reduce the risk of serious mold activity. Moreover, a building that is clean and neat will promote respect and care for the collections and make for a healthier, more pleasant environment for staff and patrons. Housekeeping is thus an excellent method to help ensure the safe, long-term preservation of your holdings."

Collection Management Plan, (CMP), Collection Condition Survey (CCS)

Housekeeping Task Sheet (sample)
  1. Structure
  2. Location (room ID; zones)
  3. Systems, Assemblies, Elements
  4. Task
  5. Frequency
  6. Estimated time
  7. Materials, supplies
  8. Equipment, tools
  9. Procedures
  10. Cautions
  11. Special skills/training
  12. Currently assigned to
  13. Report prepared/updated (name)
  14. Date
  15. References
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