Reviewing cleaning and collections care policies
Thank you to Allison Titman, Executive Director, American Helicopter Museum & Education Center, and Dana Twersky, Collections and Exhibitions Manager, Vero Beach Museum of Art for their contributions.
As with any contagious illness, good housekeeping is necessary to maintain the health of those in and around the museum during a coronavirus outbreak. But while the safety of people should come first, it is also important to maintain the safety of exhibition spaces and objects, both while on display and in storage. Finding the right balance between using the strongest disinfecting cleaning supplies and those that will not harm people or objects is key. Here are some helpful tips:
- Check your collections management policy, collections procedures, and housekeeping manual for suitable ways to keep areas near collections on display and in storage clean. Always consult chemical safety data sheets to ensure products are safe to use around collection objects. Never attempt to directly clean objects unless you are a trained conservator or collections professional.
- If your policies or procedures document does not provide clear advice on cleaning products to use in gallery or exhibition spaces, try using soap and water and a mild disinfectant (such as a spray bottle of 70% isopropyl alcohol) to clean surface areas away from objects. This process can be effective in these areas if done with regularity, at least once a day. Be careful to dry areas where water is used to clean and be careful with cleaning equipment in these spaces.
- Ensure that cleaning staff are trained in how to clean near objects on display and are aware of what products are approved to use in these areas.
- Clean frequently handled items (such as touchable items or audio guides) several times throughout the day with safe but sanitizing cleansers. Consider rotating touchable items as needed to allow cleaning solutions to work.
- Consider doing a weekly wet mop cleaning, if your current schedule is every two weeks.
- Consider changing out the filters in your HVAC system.
- If there is a documented incident of an infected person in a gallery, quarantine the exhibition for the recommended amount of time, at least two weeks.
- With the newly instituted closures, attempt to have a walkthrough either by collections or security staff of all collections areas at least once a week.
- AAM provides a number of relevant sample documents, including emergency plans and collections policies, to Tier 3 member museums
- The Collections Stewardship Professional Network has developed “Steps for Collections Professionals to help mitigate risks to collections during this time” (in English and Spanish).
- The Collections Stewardship Professional Network developed Steps for Collections Professionals to help mitigate risks to collections during this time
- The National Park Service has a guide to safer alternatives for industrial cleaning products in museum spaces
- NEW! The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training webinar Covid-19 Basics: Disinfecting Cultural Resources
- The Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts has a thorough Collection Housekeeping Guide
- Museum Junction, AAM’s discussion forum, is a great place to ask and answer questions
- Join the AAM Collections Stewardship Professional Network’s open listserv
- Library of Congress The Impact of Hand Sanitizers on Collection Materials