Sustainability General Session at American Institute for Conservation in Miami

Our energy-efficient cold-storage project was presented to a small group of about 40-50 attendees of the American Institute for Conservation Annual Meeting.  This year's meeting theme was "Practical Philosophy or Making Conservation Work." Sustainability was one of three general session tracks along with practical philosophy and Year of Light.  

Facilitated by the Sustainability Committee, there were a total of six very interesting sustainability topics in our track.  Among them, the University System of Georgia's efforts to sustainably operate their archives building amidst operational struggles and budget cuts.  Their project was funded by a NEH Sustaining Cultural Heritage Grant for implementation.  

Jeremy Linden from IPI and our own Tom Braun presented with me on our case study, "Achieving Competing Goals: Cold Storage and Energy Efficiency."  

Our presentation:

Our session gave a brief overview of our NEH Sustaining Cultural Heritage Planning Grant project, the goal of which was to understand and balance the issues of long-term preservation for film materials.  To examine these factors and help us develop a strategy for energy-efficient, long-term film storage, an interdisciplinary team was brought together in a series of collaborative workshops. 

Through this collaboration, many different passive and active strategies initially brought forth were reduced to a cohesive set of recommendations that included building improvements and specific upgrades of equipment.  In all, the bundle of strategies will help us increase the film collections Preservation Index (PI), Image Permanence Institute’s measure of the “decay rate of vulnerable organic materials” in different temperature and relative humidity condition;, while also decreasing energy use and operating costs.  Specifically, we hope to increase the PI by 2-4 times from 100 years to a range of 200 - 400 years allowing for seasonal fluctuation.  Further, a subset of critical film material will increase its PI from 100 years to 900 years. In addition to improving the long-range preservation for film collections, there is also an anticipated savings of $16,600 in energy costs per year as compared to baseline adaptations of the existing system.    

While the study focused on our collections storage, our presentation also discussed the process of the cost-benefit analysis of options.  For other organizations, this could be a framework for discussing their energy-efficient collections storage.  Our key take away is that there are many issues that must be considered in designing cold storage for collections, as well as the collaborative processes that help balance these issues towards achieving the best possible storage environment within existing facilities and budget constraints.

Full list of session abstracts:

The Relevance of Traditional Materials in Modern Conservation, Frances Ford and Brien Beidler

Conscientious Conservation: The Application of Green Chemistry Principles to Sustainable Conservation Practice, Jan Dariusz Cutajar

The How and Why for Reusing Rare Earth Magnets, Gwen Spicer

An Investigation and Implementation of the Use of Sustainable and Reusable Materials to Replace Traditional Wood Crates used in the Museum Industry, Kevin Gallup and Burrus Harlow

Sustaining Georgia’s Historical Records: NEH Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections Implementation Grant at the Georgia Archives, Kim Norman and Adam Parnell

Achieving Competing Goals: Energy Efficient Cold-Storage, Shengyin Xu, Jeremy Linden, Tom Braun