#NZCCM2020 Abstract: Kristie Short-Traxler (Environmental Monitoring )

The Evolution of Environmental Monitoring and Control Models for Conservation

Kristie Short-Traxler


Kristie is an accredited conservator with 20 years of experience in preventive and remedial conservation. She has undergraduate degrees in art, chemistry and history from the United States and a double Masters in Conservation from the Institute of Archaeology, University College London.

Prior to her role at MOTAT as Conservation Manager, she worked for 11 years with Oxford University where she served as Head of Preventive Conservation for the University libraries. Her specific work interests include environmental monitoring and pollutant research, colour measurement and disaster planning.

Kristie is passionate about advocacy for conservation and currently serves in two voluntary roles as a CPD Reader for ICON and Vice President of NZCCM where she chairs the membership committee and is also a member of this year’s conference committee.

Since the first half of the 20th century, many museum environment practices have led to a raft of perceived wisdom re-environmental ranges and standards that were not based on observed measured damage but based on a one size fits all model.

This coupled with the application of didactic environmental standards

(BS5454:1977,1989,2000) led to strict controls on storage and display environments and costly investments in HVAC equipment.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the increasing running costs led to comparisons with HVAC versus non-HVAC institutions. These comparisons were not as effective as they could have been, as there was no link back to the actual preservation state of the collections. Research in the 1990s on degradation pathways provided proof for wider allowable environmental ranges and began to question the strict requirements of the mechanical conditioning necessary to meet stringent BS5454 guidelines.

Over the past ten years, increased running costs of HVAC, lending practices and new research methods have led to new approaches, including passive climate control. The last decade has also seen two new standards (PAS 198:2011, BS EN 16893:2018) which focus on establishing a procedure to set sensible specifications based on the history and preservation state of the collection or building.

This paper will look briefly at the timeline and history of environmental practices and standards and examine the shift from reactive process driven control models to more quantitative, predictive, risk management models. The drivers behind these changes will be punctuated with examples from the author’s own experience.