What determines how well we're managing our environmental conditions? It depends on the standards we've set for our space.
One of the most basic environmental monitoring questions we can ask is "How well is a space performing?" Getting a quick sense of a space - are the conditions bad, good, or great - helps us identify problem areas and develop a plan to improve the environment.
* There's Not One Way to Score a Space *
There's more than one way to evaluate a space, based on who you talk to. We've developed a scoring system that values simplicity over being 100% correct, so that it's easier to get started without a steep learning curve. Our expectation is that you accept our default standards to get started and then over time you refine those standards as you learn more about the environment in your collection.
At Conserv we value simplicity over complexity so that our scoring system is easier to understand. That being said there are more nuanced scoring systems that are very helpful for more advanced conservation programs.
One big shout out. The Canadian Conservation Institute ("CCI") has a fantastic set of resources on Preventive Conservation and Risk Management that goes into a lot of detail around best practices for setting standards and scoring spaces. Where we use CCI standards in our application, you'll see a reference to CCI and a link to their website.
Set Points & Fluctuations
We evaluate spaces based on set points and fluctuations in the data.
The set point is our target average over a period of time - for example it's not uncommon for collections to have a target of 60% relative humidity for a space. If we take the average of our relative humidity over a period of time we can understand how close we are to our target set point.
Our readings will fluctuate around around our set point, and generally we want to keep fluctuations to a minimum - for example it's no uncommon for a collection to target a ±10% change in relative humidity. For a collection with a 60% RH target, any values between 50% and 70% would be acceptable with a ±10% target. The frequency and speed of fluctuations matters, and we will come back to this later.
Set points vary from collection to collection based on geography, seasons, type of collection - and this is ok. No matter the collection, we should strive to hold fluctuations to a minimum.
Research suggests that fluctuation problems cause more damage to collections than set point problems. Said another way, set points will differ from collection to collection depending on geography, seasons, type of collection but the goal of minimizing fluctuations is a universal constant.
All objects have recommended set points and fluctuations based on the type of object, its history, and what type of environmental control is possible in a space. Our job is to understand what objects are in a space and to set an environmental standard for the space that provides the best environment for those objects.
We want to make it easy for you to get started setting standards for your spaces, so we've provided some out of the box standards. We don't think these standards are right for every collection and for every space, but it's a quick way to get started.
Every space starts with these pre-set standards.
Temperature: 65°F ± 10°F
Relative Humidity: 50% RH ± 10% RH
Standards for spaces vary widely depending on your collection, your building, and the expertise you have in controlling environmental conditions.
The Conserv default standard for temperature is 65°F ± 10°F which we would describe as a space with a Normal temperature set point with Medium fluctuations.
|Warm||75 - 85°F|
|Normal||55 - 75°F|
|Cool||32 - 55°F|
|Medium||± 5 - 10°F|
|Low||± 0 - 5°F|
The Conserv default standard for relative humidity is 50% RH ± 10% RH which we would describe as a space with a Normal relative humidity set point with Medium fluctuations.
|Damp||75 - 100%|
|Normal||30 - 75%|
|Dry||0 - 30%|
|Very High||± 40%+|
|High||± 10 - 20%|
|Medium||± 5 - 10%|
|Low||< ± 5%|
To simplify the way we talk about spaces, we've developed quick scoring system that's focused on fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity. Because set points differ so much between and sometimes within collections, we aren't including set point compliance in our scoring (for now).
|Score||RH Fluctuation||Temp Fluctuation|
|A||Low (< 5%)||Low (0 - 5°F / 0 - 2.8°C)|
|B||Medium (± 5 - 10%)||Low (0 - 5°F / 0 - 2.8°C)|
|C||Medium (± 5 - 10%)||Medium (± 5 - 10°F / 2.8 - 5.6°C)|
|D||High (± 10 - 20%)||Medium (± 5 - 10°F / 2.8 - 5.6°C)|
|E||High (± 10 - 20%)||High (± 10°F+ / 5.6°C)|
What does my score mean?
The best way to evaluate your score is by comparing your score to the objects in your space. Take a look at the table below which summarizes how scores relate to the amount of damage being done to your collection.
You can have a lower score if the objects in your collection are less sensitive. More sensitive objects require higher scores.
How sensitive is the most sensitive object in the space? (Low - Very High)
How much damage is being done to the object in question? (None - Severe)
Setting standards for your space will evolve over time. The goal should be to start with a reasonable standard and fine tune your standards for each space based on your growing knowledge of environmental monitoring.