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Springfield Museum’s CAP Experience

December 20, 2018

Written by: Madeline McGraw, Curator, Springfield Museum

Springfield Museum_opt

The Springfield Museum is housed in a substation built in 1911.

When I joined the Springfield Museum in May, I knew very little about the Collections Assessment for Preservation (CAP) program. I knew that it was created by the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (FAIC) through an agreement with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and that it supports conservation assessments of museum collections and buildings. I also assumed that it would be a confusing, time-consuming program with little relevance to a small museum like the one I was now in charge of. What could a program like this offer us, other than more headaches?

CAP assessors ventured out onto the museum roof to check its condition.

Luckily for me, my predecessor had applied for entrance into the program as one of her final tasks, and the Springfield Museum was chosen to be part of the 2018 CAP class. Steering the Museum through the program would be my first duty as Curator!

I quickly learned that my earlier assumptions about the program were wrong. Often, programs and grants are tailored to larger institutions with big budgets and multiple staff members, and smaller museums end up struggling to remember why they applied in the first place. The CAP program is the opposite: while institutions of any size will benefit from joining, the program is specifically created for small and mid-sized institutions. CAP staffers were very understanding when we missed deadlines or had questions about paperwork, and helped us locate assessors who would work with our needs.

Here are some tips for navigating the CAP program as a small museum:

  • Don’t try to “tidy up” before your site visit. The assessors want to see your museum the way it is, grime and all! Your assessors are not visiting to shame you, but to help you find constructive solutions.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up if an assessor has a suggestion that would be difficult for your institution to implement. A frank discussion could lead to a more manageable solution to the problem.
  • Use the CAP program as a way to talk to your community about your museum’s conservation needs-you might find local support for implementing the assessor’s findings.

Six months later, the Springfield Museum now has a professional report filled with priorities that we can take to our City Council and use as evidence in grant applications, and two assessors that we can turn to when we  have concerns. No headaches here!

*The Collections Assessment for Preservation (CAP) program provides small and mid-sized museums with partial funding toward a general conservation assessment. The assessment is a study of all of the institution’s collections, buildings, and building systems, as well as its policies and procedures relating to collections care. Participants who complete the program receive an assessment report with prioritized recommendations to improve collections care. CAP is often a first step for small institutions that wish to improve the condition of their collections.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 20, 2018 8:13 am

    New to all of this, what are FAIC and IMLS?
    “FAIC through an agreement with the IMLS”

    • December 20, 2018 8:51 am

      Hello, apologies for not expanding the acronyms and we will edit that on the post but FAIC is the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works and IMLS is the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

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