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The right environment for ‘cultural collections’

29 July 2010

The National Gallery

A new specification for environmental conditions for cultural collections in the UK is being developed by BSI. Called PAS 198, it is scheduled for publication in May 2011.

PAS 198 Specification for environmental conditions for cultural collections will provide a set of requirements for the environmental conditions in which archive, library and museum collections should be stored and displayed. It will include requirements for temperature, relative humidity, light and pollution. It will apply to cultural collections whether in storage, on display or on loan, and to all types and sizes of collections held by all collecting organizations such as archives, libraries and museums, both public and private.
The aim is to help minimize the damage to items caused by inappropriate environmental conditions. PAS 198 will complement other work in progress in related areas, in particular the review of BS 5454:2000, a standard for the storage and exhibition of archival documents, and the forthcoming development of a new European CEN standard for the protection of heritage objects.
The new specification for environmental conditions for cultural collections in the UK is being developed by BSI with sponsorship from Collections Trust; CyMAL: Museums Archives and Libraries Wales, a division of the Welsh Assembly Government; The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA); and The National Archives. The Publicly Available Specification (PAS) will be called PAS 198 and is scheduled for publication in May 2011.
This development reflects a growing consensus that there is a need for an approach that allows for a more responsible use of energy in the control of environmental conditions. This view is supported by a call from the National Museum Directors’ Conference for a review of collections care policy and practice, with the aim of reducing carbon emissions. It also reflects research findings that have shown a need to move away from a prescriptive to an evidence-led approach to environmental management.
The development of PAS 198 Specification for environmental conditions for cultural collections, will include a four-week period of open consultation, due to begin in early 2011. Interested parties are invited to register to participate in the consultation at
Nancy Bell, Head of Collection Care at The National Archives said: “We are delighted to be part of this important new initiative and look forward to working closely with our co-sponsors and with BSI to provide an up-to-date specification, which I believe will be widely welcomed by those caring for collections in archives, libraries and museums.”
Mike Low, Director of BSI Standards commented: “Just as we have been able to enjoy collections in our time, it’s essential that future generations can continue to do so. This PAS will help to make this possible by recognizing the importance of preserving collections in appropriate environmental conditions whilst at the same time ensuring that the resources used to do this are sustainable.”

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