Museum Security Network

Workshop on 'Collections at risk: Safeguarding our cultural heritage', May 15-17 at the Museum of Archaeology, Valletta, Malta

Malta. Safeguarding our cultural heritage

Samantha Fabry.
Sunday, 26th April 2009.

The safety and security of our movable cultural heritage is vital when maintaining these objects and collections within a protected environment. Very often, however, many of our treasures are left unprotected and are placed at high risk.

These risks can originate from environmental factors, such as pests, moisture or heat, or alternatively they can be placed at risk through theft, fire or water damage. In the worst case scenario, all these can pose a threat.

Where we place any object will ultimately reflect how it survives into the future. As a result of this, many collections that are privately, publicly or state owned are in danger of being damaged or destroyed. Therefore, it is vital to carry out a risk assessment to be able to identify, study and eliminate the risks.

A workshop on ‘Collections at risk: Safeguarding our cultural heritage’, will be held from May 15-17 at the Museum of Archaeology, Valletta. The event is a collaborative effort by ICOM Malta and the International Committee on Museum Security (ICMS) with the support of the International Committee of Museums (ICOM).

Key speakers will include professionals and specialists from the ICMS committee, many of whom are leading experts within some of the most prominent museums in Europe. Other experts will include conservators, heritage architects, collection managers and legal experts who will discuss the complications of theft in Europe and Malta.

The workshop has been developed on a forum-based framework with plenary sessions where delegates and experts can exchange ideas, experiences and expertise, and create personalised risk assessments of the collections which they own or maintain.

This important workshop aims to highlight the importance of undertaking risk assessments on collections owned and kept within historic houses, small museums, churches, archives, private houses, and archaeological, sites which have objects in situ. It will be divided into three core themes:

• Collections at risk from environmental factors and pests: Participants will gain a deeper understanding of the environmental factors directly affecting or placing all collections under threat or in danger. The workshop is aimed at those who own or are keepers of private, state or church collections.

Participants will learn how to reduce environmental risks by examining these threats and how these affect objects. Participants will then create a risk assessment of their own collection.

• Protecting your site and collection against human-caused endangerment – theft, fire and loss: All objects are at risk of theft, fire and loss. This workshop will discuss how a building or site can be strengthened to improve security against these events.

Participants will be asked to create a risk assessment based on their own collections, identifying the areas that would place their objects or collections in jeopardy against theft, fire and loss.

• Securing your site against natural disasters: Historic houses, churches and museums may unknowingly be placing their collections at risk. Lack of maintenance of a site can contribute to creating environmental hazards that can either harm or destroy an object or collection.

These factors often go unnoticed until damage has occurred. Participants will examine the various issues that affect buildings and then create a risk assessment based on their own site. Based on this information, they will be able to identify areas that would require further attention to enable a safer environment.

For more information about the workshop or ICOM Malta, call David Cardona at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta on 2123 3871 or 2124 3638 or e-mail, or Joseph Schiro at Heritage Malta on 2180 7675 or 2180 7656 or e-mail

ICOM is a worldwide network for museum professionals of all disciplines and specialisations. It operates globally for the preservation of cultural heritage and functions mainly through its national and international committees.

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