Preservation 101
5 | Collections Care

Session 1
Session 2
Session 3
Session 4
Session 5
Session 6
Session 7
Session 8


Storage Furniture
Storage Enclosures
Collection Maintenance
Handling Collections

Putting It Into Practice
Storing Paper Collections
Storing Media Collections
Staff and User Education
Final Assignment

Taking it Further
Additional Activities
Additional Resources


Collection Maintenance


The practice of good housekeeping is probably the simplest and least expensive method of preventive conservation for any type of collection. Housekeeping will keep particulates such as dust, dirt, smoke, ash, and mold spores from gathering on or around objects in your collection. These particulates can cause abrasion of delicate objects such as photographs and will attract moisture from humid environments to form acids that cause chemical deterioration. Dust and dirt contain organic materials that serve as food for insects and mold, and therefore provide an ideal environment in which they can live and flourish.

By keeping collections clean, you reduce the risk of these types of damage. Moreover, a building that is clean and neat engenders respect for the collections within it and makes for a healthier, more pleasant environment for staff and patrons. Housekeeping is thus an excellent method to help ensure the safe, long-term preservation of your holdings.

A Housekeeping Plan

Housekeeping for the building and for collections in storage or on exhibit should be discussed and defined in a written housekeeping plan. This plan should be part of a larger building maintenance plan that includes routine inspections and maintenance of key building elements and systems (e.g., roof, drainage systems, pipes and plumbing, fire protection equipment, and HVAC equipment).

See Session 4: The Building and Environment for information on building maintenance.

The housekeeping plan should carefully delineate who will do the work, how often the work will be done, and with what tools and methods it will be completed. The plan should detail weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly tasks, as well as special instructions for specific materials. Keep in mind that several different people will likely be performing the different housekeeping tasks (e.g., custodians, paraprofessionals, students, librarians, collections curators), and written schedules for each person and/or task may be needed.

How Often Should You Clean?

Housekeeping work should be performed on a regular schedule based on need and circumstance. For example, spaces are usually very dusty in the fall, during the first few weeks after the heating system has been turned on. Dust in the ductwork is dried out by the heated air, becomes airborne, and is then circulated throughout the building. Therefore, dusting and vacuuming will be required more frequently in the early fall than in other seasons.

  See a Housekeeping/Cleaning Checklist (PDF, 228k).

Housekeeping/ Cleaning Checklist (PDF, 228k)

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Exploring: Cleaning Collections