Tip of the CAP: The Site Visit

Handheld meters allow for real-time monitoring of temperature, relative humidity, dew point and light.

Handheld meters allow for real-time monitoring of temperature, relative humidity, dew point and light.

The Society applied for and was thrilled to receive a 2014 Conservation Assessment Program (CAP) grant. This is Part II of a series of posts regarding the CAP assessment. (Here’s Part I).

Let’s take a general look at how the site visit works.

Consultants Michael Henry and Wendy Jessup have a long history of partnering on CAP projects. His firm, Watson & Henry Associates, specializes in the research, documentation, analysis and preservation of historic structures and engineering related to historic structures. Her firm, Wendy Jessup & Associates, specializes in preventive conservation, collections management consulting, and planning services to museums and other stewards of cultural and historic property.

Their team approach – combining individual areas of expertise with collaborative assessment and report writing – provides a holistic view of the Society’s assets and risks regarding collections. The June 24-26 site visit included an opening meeting with staff and trustees; a collections space tour led by the Collections Manager and a volunteer; observances of reading room, staff and volunteer activity; documentation review, such as organizational charts and collections management policies; meetings with facilities managers and engineering staff; hands-on collections inspections; and a close-out meeting where initial recommendations and observations were offered.

Staff and volunteers integral to the three-day site visit included Laura Barry, Dave Wood, Adam Lewis, John Suau and Anne McDonough. HSW trustees Julie Koczela, Elizabeth Ratigan and Toni Lee, along with Collections Committee co-chair Mary Beth Corrigan,  met with the consultants during the visit, making a clear statement as to the Society’s commitment to collections care.

Armed with handheld meters, the team of consultants examined the conditions and use of the Society's space, including the public access areas and collections storage.

Armed with handheld meters, the team of consultants examined the conditions and use of the Society’s space, including the public access areas and collections storage.

Particularly in a historic structure such as the Carnegie Library, an examination of the building's exterior is critical to understanding the interior conditions.

Particularly in a historic structure such as the Carnegie Library, an examination of the building’s exterior is critical to understanding the interior conditions.

Historic building expert Michael Henry referred to floor plans and blueprints throughout the CAP process.

In-depth meetings with facilities operators and managers is a critical component of the CAP assessment.

In-depth meetings with facilities operators and managers is a critical component of the CAP assessment.

The light level in the “Window to Washington” exhibit got good marks from consultant Wendy Jessup.  While dataloggers currently capture light readings, as recommended by the CAP consultants the Society’s wishlist includes a portable light meter.

The light level in the “Window to Washington” exhibit got good marks from consultant Wendy Jessup. While dataloggers currently capture light readings, as recommended by the CAP consultants the Society’s wishlist includes a portable light meter.

Wendy Jessup and her associate examined each room of collections storage, evaluating the current housing and access, and providing recommendations on how to improve conditions for various materials.

Wendy Jessup and her associate examined each room of collections storage, evaluating the current housing and access, and providing recommendations on how to improve conditions for various materials.

The associate’s choice of clothing reflects that collections-appropriate temperatures aren’t always the most comfortable for humans.

The associate’s choice of clothing reflects that collections-appropriate temperatures aren’t always the most comfortable for humans.

Next: CAP recommendations made during the site visit that Society implemented immediately. See Part III.