Museum Monday: Collections Risk Assessment

It can be overwhelming. It can hurt your brain. But it can also help you understand your collection’s preservation needs like nothing else.

Collections risk assessment. Ready? Collections risk assessment evaluates the impact of different specific risks on a collections unit. It’s a systematic way of generating data to illustrate to your administration, board, and supporters what work you need to do to protect collections.

RL Fifield illustration, 2012.

FS x LV x P x E = MR. That’s the equation.

FS = Fraction of your collection unit susceptible to the risk.
LV = Loss of value within the collection unit when risk’s full impact comes to bear.
P = Probability
E = Extent. For example, a big fire usually rates a high number, while ongoing light damage rates a low number.
MR = Magnitude of Risk.

By assigning numbers, and executing the equantion, each risk’s impact on relevant collection units line up, revealing an institution’s preservation priorities.

I am very fortunate to know Rob Waller, who developed the Cultural Property Risk Analysis Model (CPRAM). Rob’s a friendly guy (he’s from Canada) whose incredible insight into systematically identifying and mitigating risks to collections is matched by his boundless patience in helping one understand the concepts. For more information, visit the website of his company, Protect Heritage, here. There are also many resources at the American Museum of Natural History’s Paleontology Portal website.

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.

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