In 1999 the Germanic National Museum started two investigations:
1.1 The survey
The general survey revealed a chaos concerning all areas of monitoring
1.2 The 'Monitoring case study
The actual impetus to put forward a monitoring was a high amount of dust and greasy layers on show cases and objects. Dirt is something the top management in a museum dislikes, since dirty show cases and objects render neglecting the care for the collection.
The peaks of result
The dust in the ventilation pipes had plaster, soot and rubber. But as well:
The air in one show room was polluted by:
PCB (700 mg/kg), The German standards allow 1 mg/kg
2. The semi - profession of the conservators
The results of the monitoring study case had its impact. The conservators were faced with the argument: If you want us to change the products, you have to name them.
Although having introduced tests on relevant materials in a newly opened dependance on armoury the controlling passive sampling months later detected all those VOCs, we like to be absent.
3. Monitoring is not only detecting gases
If we understand monitoring only as scientific measuring, there will be no changes in our museums. Monitoring as well means looking for appropriate material.
In reaction of our experiences we started to test any material in our laboratory.
Since then we have about 50 tests. By the time we will have the problem to find the tests in our folder for further use. So a databank must be developed.
But testing materials revealed clearly another problem: Monitoring delays planning. So far, in the timetable of museum planning monitoring does not appear.
4. Monitoring as reaction on problems -Monitoring as a program
Actually conservators always react on demands rather than act on developing the issue. We work without a system and there is no manpower even to scope with every day demands. Non systematic work is waste of time and money.
Therefore teams must be installed to handle problems of monitoring in both ways, the every day demands and the systematic work on material and monitoring. Presently this can only be done with a project. In cooperation with the Bavarian National Museum, München, a concept had been developed. We formulated the following two essentials:
Arnulf von Ulmann
Leites des Instituts für Kunsttechnik und Konservierung
D-90402 Nürnberg, Germany
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© December 10th, 2001