Conservators and preservation professionals routinely undertake several different types of preservation surveys, and the terminology used to describe them can be confusing.
A general preservation planning survey identifies overall preservation goals and priorities for a repository. It differs from a collection condition survey in that it does not normally provide an evaluation of the specific condition of particular items, with the possible exception of identifying items of value that are in need of "emergency" conservation treatment.
At the end of a general preservation planning survey, a surveyor should be able to:
This course is primarily concerned with the general preservation planning survey. A thorough general preservation planning survey examines building conditions, policies, collections, and storage and handling procedures. As you work through this course, you will be prompted to answer questions and fill out a number of forms. If you choose to do all of these activities, you will collect most of the information needed to summarize and analyze your institution's preservation needs by the end of this course.
A collection condition survey might be required for a specific subset of the institution's collections once a preservation planning survey has been completed. The collection condition survey can take the form of an item-by-item survey conducted by a conservator with detailed knowledge of a particular type of collection (books, photographs), or it can take the form of a statistical survey that looks at a sampling of material (generally books from a circulating or research collection) and provides concrete data about the condition of that particular subset of the institution's collections.
A preservation planning survey, however, is not a preservation plan. Whether a survey is done in-house or by an outside consultant, it is important to summarize the findings in a written report that sets forth time frames for short-term and long-term preservation priorities. The repository will then use these priorities, together with other relevant issues such as available institutional resources and political considerations, to create a preservation plan that lays out a specific schedule for accomplishing particular projects. Session 8: Building a Preservation Program looks at the process of preservation planning in detail.