4 key points for a museum risk management program

Museum risk management program: 4 key points

The preservation of collections  requires the implementation of a risk management program in a museum or private Preventive Conservationcontext. Depending on the size of the collection, the typology and diversity of works and their exposure / storage conditions, this task can be more or less laborious.

But using the proper methodology and registration tools will be simple.

Let us then share the methodology proposed by the colleague Susana Mota in the online course Preventive Conservation


4 key points for a museum risk management program

  1.  Identification of possible hazards to the collection;
  2. Risk assessment;
  3. Identification of possible strategies to mitigate risks;
  4. Your assessment of the costs and benefits of each strategy.


You can see a summary of this methodology in the video below.

1. Identification of possible hazards to the collection:

This identification starts by analyzing the 10 agents of deterioration:

  1. physical forces,
  2. criminal action,
  3. fire,
  4. water,
  5. biological attacks,
  6. pollutants,
  7. light and radiation,
  8. temperature,
  9. relative humidity,
  10.  negligence

Each one of these agents of deterioration can manifest itself according to a classification of risk based on the analysis of the frequency of occurrence and the degree of effect/intensity on the subject and collections.

Generally speaking we consider these risks in a scale of 1 to 3, being:

1 – rare risk and of catastrophic effect;

2 – moderate occurrence risk but of severe intensity;

3 – constant risk of occurrence and of moderate intensity.


Preventive Conservation


Within what we consider general risks, there are those specific to a particular type of museum, collection, geographic location,…

So, with the table below, we intend to clarify this identification of risk, with concrete examples of its applicability.


2) Risk assessment:

Planning strategies to reduce the impact of the occurrence is required to predict and assess the action of risk factors. Also, it is necessary to register the occurrences (for example: equipment failures, floods, earthquakes or landslides) in order to estimate the frequency with which they occur.

Assessing risks and their probability of occurrence may contribute to a reduction of expenditure, but it mainly represents less damage (often irreversible) in cultural goods.

The effects of risk factors depend on the materiality of the objects (what the objects are made of).

A simple form or table might serve as a risk assessment tool.

This table allows us to quickly analyze the vulnerability of materials, using a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being for higher-risk cases and 1 for the least exposed to risk). See an example bellow.



3) Identification of possible strategies to mitigate risks:

There are 3 basic methods to mitigate risks:

  1. Eliminate the source of the risk;
  2. Establish a barrier;
  3. Act on the agent responsible for the risk.

4) Your assessment of the costs and benefits of each strategy:

In implementing a risk management program we must always take into account the cost / benefit ratio of each strategy / action. This evaluation can only be carried out based on a correct evaluation of the risks according to the methodology described above.

The Canadian Institute for Conservation provides technical documentation on risk management in Museums. You can consult HERE

In the  preventive conservation course we will learn about the concepts and methods of preventive conservation, how we can protect our heritage and prevent its destruction.

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