Protect detect mitigate: Caring for our heritage! (Pankaj Protim Bordoloi, ITP 2018, India)

Namaste everyone! Greetings. I am Pankaj Protim Bordoloi, Education Officer, from Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum (President’s House Museum), New Delhi, India.

After an enthralling weekend boat ride tour to Kew Gardens and a most insightful good, four-hour personal visit to V&A Museum on Sunday, the museum mood within me was waiting for the very important Collections Care sessions on Monday.

What is a store? What is the purpose of a museum store? To answer these key questions Taniah Simpson (British Museum Storage Project Officer, WCEC) initiated the first session of the day, where she elaborated various important aspects of a model storage, from building to security, environmental monitoring to health and safety. A practical assessment survey in three different stores by three different ITP groups was initiated after this lecture. Our group visited the Greek and Roman store in the basement and assessed the important aspects of a store such as fabric, flooring, décor, security of the building, storage furniture, materials, access, environment, cleanliness etc, based on a British Museum Store Survey form provided to us. We were informed to rate the store based on our survey with a grade of A to E. Our findings were presented to the session by yours truly on behalf of our group.

After a quick break, we were welcomed by the very energetic and dapper David Bilson (Head of Security and Visitor Services) to discuss Security and Risk Management. His session provided us with an insight into taking measures to protect our assets, from people, the museum, and its collection to business assets. He spoke about risk assessment, security strategy and planning, and the five Ds (detect, deter, delay, deny, detain/defeat). He discussed defensive layers in depth, object security, creating standard operating procedures, emergency plans, crisis meeting structure and threat level. Some of the questions the curious ITPers presented him with included whether the museum has been used as a place of protest, whether people have damaged objects as a mark of protest, and how frequently the museum does its security drills.

The ever-smiling Fabiana Portoni (Preventive Conservator) led us to the world of conservation, which she discussed in detail – from the meaning of ‘preventive conservation’ to agents of deterioration. She informed of the five steps – avoid, block, detect, response, treat – and how reviewing all of these can mitigate damage to the objects. She discussed extensively the Integrated Pest Management programme of the Museum, where the development of an IPM policy and a strategy and training programme for staff is essential. She demonstrated some of the equipment and materials used for the preventive conservation initiatives.

The hungry ITPers proceeded to the delicious canteen and a small group of ITPers followed Ms Portoni, accompanied by Jessica (ITP Assistant) and Andrea (ITP Senior Fellow), to the laboratory to understand more about the practical aspects of her work. We explored an unexplored territory within the BM and found it quite interesting. Ms Portoni showed us the always alert ‘Thermohydrometer’ (which ITPers instantly named the ‘Sensor Army’) its role, importance and also scientific tests done at the laboratory.

Post-lunch, it was Collections Assistant Training, including a practical demonstration. The ITP fellows participated in three main areas in three different groups: object handling and packing; condition reporting; and mounting objects on board using the pinning method. This practical exposure to the work was enjoyed by the fellows. The ever-inquisitive ITPers engaged the demonstrators Lucy Romeril, Ben Fox, Sovati Smith, Alice Christen and Euan Shearer (Registrar’s Office) by asking numerous questions about the process.

The day ended with Becca’s announcement of ITPers most awaited, exciting Brighton trip tomorrow!

Pankaj Protim