U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service  126 FW 2, Documentation and Preservation Standards

FWM#:    325 (new)
Date:        October 7, 1997
Series:      Library and Museum Services
Part 126:  Museums
Originating Office:  Division of Refuges  

2.1 Museum Property Standards.

A. Standards for managing Service museum property are based on various legal requirements, regulations, Departmental policies, and professional practices. Standards found in and referenced in this chapter apply to all Service museum property. However, management priority must be directed to those museum property objects or collections that possess high scientific, artistic, cultural, and monetary value in need of preservation; are highly susceptible to environmental damage; are sensitive for traditional cultural or religious reasons; or, whose care is specifically mandated by law.

B. The Service is responsible for the accountability and management of all its museum property collections, including those on loan to curatorial institutions for study, interpretation, and long-term care. While these collections cover all museum property classification types, most are comprised of archaeological materials and preserved in response to the requirements found in 36 CFR 79. Units should use the general preservation and documentation standards found in these chapters to assess the condition and care of collections stored in non-Federal curatorial facilities and to develop uniform reporting requirements. It is not the Service's policy to impose the detailed requirements and standards found in these chapters upon non-Federal repositories employing systems that meet acceptable professional museum standards and practices for accessioning, cataloging, deaccessioning, and preservation.

2.2 Documentation.

A. General. Documentation standards for museum property cover many management activities, including accessioning, cataloging, deaccessioning, loans (short or long-term), disposal, inventories, policy and planning guidance, and reports on the status and condition of collections. Museum Property Administrators and unit managers are responsible for accounting for museum property and establishing reporting procedures to meet these documentation requirements. Refer to 126 FW 3 for reporting requirements associated with these documents.

B. Documentation Standards.

(1) General.

(a) All Service museum property must be documented using a transfer of title or custody form signed by the designated authority and Museum Property Accountable Officer, as appropriate.

(b) Activities involving accessions, cataloging, loans, loss or destruction, and deaccessions of museum property must meet the standards described in this Chapter.

(c) Units are responsible for recording and reporting information on museum collections that meet the minimum mandatory data standards defined in Exhibit 1. Units may supplement mandatory data with other categories of information, if appropriate. Refer to the Department's Museum Property Handbook, 411 DM Volume II, Appendices L-P for assistance in developing optional data categories. Museum records that are needed for current business and not considered to be "official records" must be retained by the appropriate unit. One complete set of a unit's documentation must be stored in acid-free folders and kept in a fire-proof safe.

(2) Accessions. Units may accession museum property by donation, purchase, transfer, field collection, or by exchange. The Region or unit designated authority must review and approve all accession transactions.

(a) The acquisition of one or more object(s) in the same manner from one source at one time for a unit's museum property collection will be recorded as a single accession transaction. The transaction must be documented by means of a transfer of title or by using a custody form signed by the authorized officer. Where applicable, the transfer of copyright must be documented as well. An exception to this process may be permitted if catalog records are recorded sequentially in a bound acid-free archival book, as is common with natural history collections.

(b) Accessions will be documented using the following acid-free materials: a bound archival accession book, accession form, accession receiving report or its equivalent, and an accession folder. A unit may use supplemental computer records to manage its collection, but must maintain hard copies as legal documentation for the collection. The mandatory data requirements found in Exhibit 1 will be recorded for each accession in the accession book or in supplementary documents filed in the accession folder. If they are filed elsewhere, note their location in the accession folder.

(c) Restrictions on the future use of donated accessioned materials will be avoided.

(3) Cataloging. Museum property must be cataloged according to the appropriate disciplinary category.

(a) Cataloging requires that the following be recorded: a physical description of the museum property; associations with people, resources, or important events; interpretive and research data about the object; and, relevant museum property management data concerning its physical location and number of items. All objects and specimens will be cataloged according to appropriate disciplinary standards.

(b) Units will assign a unique identifying catalog number to the object, or group of objects, and document the information. All mandatory cataloging data categories found in Exhibit 1 will be completed, unless information is unknown or not applicable.

(4) Loans. Units involved in the loan of museum property must adhere to the following standards:

(a) Each loan (incoming and outgoing) must be assigned a unique number and documented by completing a loan agreement, cooperative agreement, memorandum of agreement, or similar instrument. A record of the loan must be maintained in a bound acid-free book or similar accounting system.

(b) Each loan agreement must be signed by the appropriate designated authority and Museum Property Accountable Officer of both the borrower and the lender.

(c) Each loan agreement must address the conditions for shipping, handling, and insuring the museum property.

(d) An itemized list of museum property will be included with the loan agreement.

(e) Loan agreements must be stored in acid-free folders.

(f) Objects on loan can only be used for official Government purposes. Units will avoid using museum property for commercial purposes or private pecuniary gain except where specifically authorized by law or by the appropriate designated authority.

(g) Loans can only be made for official purposes to institutions, organizations, or government agencies that are qualified to handle, store, study, or display the museum property. Units will avoid making loans to individuals.

(h) In compliance with 36 CFR 1228.76, units must seek blanket approval from the Archivist of the United States for all loans of "official records" to non-Federal recipients.

(5) Temporary Custody. Units will use a temporary custody receipt or similar document when holding museum property temporarily for purposes of identification, review for possible donation, or examination (refer to Museum Property Handbook, 411 DM, Volume II, Chapter 2). Short-term custody receipts are appropriate for materials that are not insured and are kept for up to a 60-day time period. The receipt must be signed by the owner of the object and the unit's Museum Property Accountable Officer.

(6) Deaccessioning.

(a) All deaccessioning activities involving the exchange, transfer, destruction, or loss of museum property will adhere to the general principles of 41 CFR 101-43 to 101-46, which address the utilization, donation, sale, abandonment, destruction, and disposal of personal property.

(b) The procedures for deaccessioning museum property are:

(i) All museum property proposed for deaccessioning must be cataloged in a manner appropriate to the discipline.

(ii) Deaccessioning will be conducted in a manner that precludes any real or apparent conflict of interest, as defined and described in 5 CFR 2635 and a related supplement, "Employee Responsibilities and Conduct." Federal employees are prohibited from acquiring deaccessioned museum property, nor will any employee appear to benefit personally in any way as a result of a deaccession action and subsequent disposition.

(iii) A unique number or identifier must be assigned to each deaccession transaction and documented using an acid-free deaccession form, deaccession folder, and bound archival deaccession book. These documents will be permanently maintained at the unit or at another suitable location. For property transferred to or exchanged with another Service unit, copies should be maintained by the sending and receiving units.

(iv) With the approval of the appropriate designated authority, units may transfer or exchange museum property with another FWS unit using a Transfer of Property form (DI-104) or via another written instrument. Deaccessioning actions involving the permanent disposal of museum property to a non-Service entity must be reviewed, approved, and signed by the appropriate Museum Property Administrator and Regional or Service designated authority.

(v) A decision to dispose of museum property that has been determined to be outside of a unit's Scope of Collection Statement must adhere to general standards for transferring collections as outlined in the Department of the Interior's Museum Property Handbook, Volume II, Chapter 6.

(c) The deaccession of human remains and other materials covered by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act must adhere to the Act's implementing regulations, 43 CFR 10.

(d) The deaccession of archaeological collections covered by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, the Antiquities Act of 1906, the Reservoir Salvage Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act must adhere to the conditions of 43 CFR 3, 43 CFR 7, and 36 CFR 79.

(e) In some instances, seized and forfeited property covered under 50 CFR 12 may qualify as museum property based upon the criteria and definitions discussed in 126 FW 1. Decisions to deaccession (and dispose of) such objects must be approved by the appropriate designated authority and adhere to the requirements and standards of this Part.

(f) For lost, destroyed, stolen, abandoned, or damaged museum property, units must prepare a Report of Survey following guidance found in 410 DM 114-60.8 before the property can be formally deaccessioned.

(g) Units must record and track information relating to the mandatory data categories for deaccessioning transactions found in Exhibit, unless the information is unknown or not applicable to the unit's collection.

(7) Forms. The following forms have been developed and approved for use by Service units for documenting transactions affecting museum property collections. For museum property transactions not covered by the forms cited below, refer to the Department of the Interior's Museum Property Handbook, 411 DM, Volumes I and II, to obtain sample formats.

(a) Transfer of Property (DI-104) for the transfer of museum property between Service or Government units.

(b) Receipt for Property (DI-105) for use in accessioning collections resulting from field collections or transfer from other units or organizations.

(c) Accession Receiving Report (Exhibit 2) to document the receipt of museum property and record information on its source, project name, and condition.

(d) Object and/or Specimen Temporary Custody Receipt (Exhibit 3) to document information involving the temporary custody (not to exceed 90 days) of museum property by Service units.

(e) Cultural Resource Catalog Record (Exhibit 4) to document mandatory cataloging data on cultural resource museum property.

(f) Natural History Catalog Record (Exhibit 5) to document mandatory cataloging data on natural history museum property.

(g) Deaccession Form (Exhibit 6) (including a Deaccession Object List) to document information and approve the deaccession of museum property by a Service unit.

(h) Report of Survey (DI-103) to document missing museum property.

2.3 Preservation Standards. Museum Property Administrators and unit managers will ensure that the following environmental, security, and preservation standards are met for areas where museum property is stored or displayed. Note that the standards discussed in paragraphs 2.3A-K and M apply primarily to storage areas and exhibits, while the standards addressed in paragraph 2.3L apply specifically to museum property maintained in administrative areas of units.

A. General Environmental Standards.

(1) Stored or exhibited museum property (and associated documentation) must be maintained in a safe, stable environment, appropriate to the nature of the materials. For example, lithic materials or pottery generated by archaeological research may not require storage according to the same rigorous environmental conditions needed for preserving more sensitive organic materials or paintings. Maintaining adequate environmental conditions will reduce the museum property's rate of deterioration, prolong its availability for use and study, and minimize the need for costly conservation treatment. Controlling levels of relative humidity and temperature affecting collections should reflect current energy conservation goals.

(2) Units are required to conduct regular inspections of their museum property collections and storage areas to detect, document, and take appropriate actions to correct pest and insect problems, inadequate environmental conditions, and improve security.

B. Temperature Standards. Significant damage to museum property usually occurs as a result of expansion and contraction of materials caused by rapid changes in and extreme temperatures. In exhibits and storage areas where human comfort is a factor, units should maintain a temperature range of 70F to 74F. In storage spaces where human comfort is not a factor, the temperature level for mixed collections may be gradually reduced to a cooler level to avoid condensation of moisture on cold surfaces. Units are responsible for monitoring temperature levels in storage, work space, and exhibit areas to avoid damage to museum property.

C. Relative Humidity Standards. Relative humidity will be maintained at stable levels to avoid extreme levels and wide fluctuations. Acceptable ranges and limits of relative humidity must be established for each unit, based on the local climate, the nature and condition of the materials in the collection, the relative humidity levels to which the materials have been acclimatized, and the structure housing museum property. Ideally, fluctuations in relative humidity should not exceed 3% per month. Units must maintain relative humidity levels below 65% RH to reduce the potential for mold growth and above 35% RH to maintain the moisture content of organic materials. Normally, data must be recorded daily for 1 year and evaluated to establish acceptable ranges and limits.

D. Visible Light Standards. Units will monitor and record the levels of visible light in exhibit, storage, and administrative spaces. The level and duration of visible light must be controlled when objects are illuminated. The illuminance levels for light-sensitive materials must be below the following levels:

(1) 50 lux (5 foot-candles) for especially light-sensitive materials (e.g., dyed and treated organic material, textiles, watercolors, tapestries, prints and drawings, manuscripts, leather, wallpapers, natural history specimens such as botanical specimens, fur and feathers, and certain types of photographs).

(2) 200 lux (20 foot-candles) for undyed and untreated organic materials, oil and tempera paintings, and finished wooden surfaces.

(3) Other materials are generally less sensitive to light and may be exposed to higher levels, up to a maximum of 300 lux (30 foot-candles). However, when these materials are housed with light-sensitive materials, it is important to maintain levels appropriate for the most sensitive materials.

(4) Except for short durations required for access or housekeeping, no light is acceptable for museum property in storage.

E. Ultraviolet Radiation Standards. Units must monitor and record ultraviolet (UV) radiation from all sources. If the UV radiation level exceeds 75 microwatts per lumen, UV-filtering material must be installed between the light source and museum property. Levels must be monitored and recorded periodically to ensure that the filtering material is effective.

F. Pests. An integrated pest management program will be implemented in all spaces housing museum property to protect the property from pest damage and to reduce the amount of pesticides used.

G. Air Pollution. As appropriate, gaseous and particulate pollution will be monitored and recorded, and pollution levels will be reduced to the lowest practical limits.

H. Security. Access to storage, exhibit, and administrative spaces housing museum property must be secured to prevent unauthorized entry and use. Where applicable, the unit must use a visitor and researcher sign-in log to record the visitor's name, address, the date and time entered, the time left, and the purpose for access to the collection. Units will prepare procedures for opening, closing, and using storage areas and exhibits. If appropriate to the collection, mechanical and electronic systems must be in place to prevent unauthorized entry. The unit's emergency management plan should also address the collection's security needs.

I. Fire Protection. Units are required to install appropriate systems, structures, and equipment to detect and suppress fire in storage areas and exhibits. Museum property records will be stored in an appropriate fire- and burglary-resistant container or vault, and locked when not in use. Flammable liquids will not be stored in a museum property storage area.

J. Housekeeping. Museum property storage areas and exhibits must be cleaned on a regular schedule. Smoking, drinking, and eating are prohibited in storage areas and exhibits. Units must prepare general procedures to provide guidance on handling and housekeeping. Hygrothermographs used by the unit should be calibrated quarterly to monitor the relative humidity and temperature of storage areas and exhibits.

K. Storage Areas and Exhibits. Museum property maintained in storage areas and exhibits must adhere to the following standards:

(1) Storage.

(a) Safe and secure storage of museum property requires dedicated space. Space designed or used for storage must be large enough to accommodate existing museum property and allow for anticipated growth in the collection's size. All newly constructed and remodeled museum property storage space will be designed to provide dedicated space and allow for such growth.

(b) Museum property will be housed in appropriate equipment and containers and packaged with appropriate museum-quality materials. Storage spaces located in high-risk natural disaster areas will employ materials and techniques that protect museum property from damage due to shock, vibration, water damage, and potentially adverse effects.

(2) Exhibits.

(a) Exhibited museum property will be displayed in such a manner that minimizes deterioration and potential for theft or vandalism. Planning and written guidance must ensure that the preservation, protection, handling, and maintenance needs of museum property are addressed. Exhibit cases will be designed and fabricated in a manner that ensures the security, preservation, and proper maintenance of museum property.

(b) Freestanding museum objects and/or specimens will be protected by appropriate methods, such as the installation of physical barriers, electronic devices, or monitoring by staff. Environmentally sensitive objects and specimens will be rotated on a scheduled basis to minimize deterioration. When necessary, mounts constructed of museum-quality material will be used to support objects or specimens. Units should avoid using original documents whenever possible. Human remains and sacred objects will not be placed on exhibit.

L. Administrative Office Space. Units are generally discouraged from mixing administrative office areas with museum property storage space in order to minimize the potential for environmental, security, fire, and infestation problems. If the following environmental and protection standards cannot be met, units should transfer the museum property to another area within the unit, to another suitable Service unit, or to a curatorial repository for storage.

(1) Keys to office space and display cases containing museum property will be controlled. Each unit is expected to prepare and follow procedures for access to, moving, handling, and housekeeping of museum property in administrative areas. Written procedures will also address how to safely evacuate museum property that may be at risk from fires or natural disasters. Policies and procedures on fire prevention, detection, and suppression for museum property will be included in a unit's fire plan. Smoking is prohibited in administrative areas housing museum property.

(2) Units are responsible for monitoring, recording, and controlling levels of relative humidity and temperature, to the extent possible, to minimize rapid fluctuations and avoid harmful extremes. Ultraviolet radiation and visible light will be monitored and controlled to acceptable standards described in this Part. Displayed museum property and associated materials must be monitored for pest infestations, with necessary corrective actions taken in accordance with the Departmental pesticide policy outlined in 517 DM.

(3) Two-dimensional museum property will be displayed and secured in a frame with a protective backing. Watercolor paintings, prints, and drawings will be matted with archival-quality material and protected by glass or other appropriate material. The unit will ensure that museum property is displayed in such a manner that provides protection from accidental damage.

M. Conservation Standards.

(1) The primary goal of conservation of museum property is to preserve its important historic, scientific, or artistic qualities. Conservation treatment of materials requires the services of a qualified conservator who is trained and experienced in addressing the problems of the particular object(s) in question. All treatment of Service museum property must adhere to the principles and practices addressed in the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practices of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (for a description of this code, refer to the Department's Museum Property Handbook, Volume I, Appendix C). Conservation treatment should always be reversible so that it may be removed without harm to the object.

(2) Conservation of museum property is an ongoing process of preventive conservation as described in paragraph 2.3, supplemented by necessary conservation treatment. Conservation treatment may be necessary when preventive measures, such as environmental conditions and proper handling are insufficient to preserve the object's qualities, or when corrective work is necessary for preparation of an exhibit. Factors to be considered in planning conservation treatment are the design or manufacturing process used to create the object; its intended function; scientific research values; its significance from a traditional cultural or religious perspective; and the importance of its appearance for exhibit or other uses. Units should consult with the appropriate designated authority before initiating a conservation program for museum property. Conservation of museum property will be undertaken only by curatorial staff under the direction of a qualified conservator who specializes in the type of material being conserved; i.e. metals, wood, textiles, etc. Service units must document all conservation treatment of museum property, whether performed by professional conservators or undertaken by qualified curatorial staff. The unit's conservation survey described in paragraph 3.1(C)(3) should provide the basis for preparing detailed documentation that serves as a permanent record of treatment procedures and their success or failure. Documentation should include a written report, photographs, drawings, and other materials.

(3) In some instances, objects may require restoration for use and exhibit. Restoration techniques are intended usually to remove unnecessary additions to materials, replacing missing components, concealing damages to materials, or renewing finishes. Care should be taken to ensure that proposed techniques are minimally interventive and that there is sufficient data available on the nature of particular objects to complete the restoration accurately.

(4) For information on selecting and obtaining the services of a conservator, refer to the Department's Museum Property Handbook, Volume I, Chapter 10.

For additional information regarding this Web page, contact Krista Bibb, in the Division of Policy and Directives Management, at Krista_Bibb@fws.gov 
Return to the Series 100 Home Page

Visit the Division of PDM Directives Home Page
Visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Home Page