AIHA Potomac Section Co-hosts Seminar on Health and Safety in Museums

Posted January 12, 2017

By AIHA Potomac Section President-elect Janice Ruggles, CIH, and Board Director Kathryn Makos, CIH

On Nov. 8, 2016, the AIHA Potomac Local Section collaborated with the Smithsonian’s Office of Safety, Health, and Environmental Management (OSHEM) and the Washington Conservation Guild (WCG) to present the professional development seminar “Control of Health and Safety Hazards in Museums and Collection Care” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, sponsored by the Lunder Conservation Center. The seminar, which was co-presented by conservators and industrial hygienists, covered information on scientific research studies such as pesticide exposure assessment in anthropology collections, innovative mold testing in archives, and mercury remediation in mineral science storage. Other technical discussions included fire protection challenges with fluid collection storage areas and an OSHA small business presentation on resources available to small historic houses and cultural sites.

Approximately 100 professionals from diverse backgrounds—conservation, collection care, and health, safety, and fire protection—attended the seminar. The attendees represented fifteen museums and cultural institutions, four universities, six federal agencies, and twelve private industries. Executive leadership from OSHEM (Director Richard Wright, Jr., CIH), WCG (Jane Klinger), AIHA (Dan Anna, PhD, CIH, CSP, and Larry Sloan, CEO), and the AIC-American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (Eryl Wentworth) gave brief remarks urging attendees to work together across professional disciplines to conduct risk assessments and develop remediation strategies for the museum occupations.

Many attendees provided positive feedback, encouraging us to organize similar events in the future and providing suggestions for topics that would be of interest to the joint community of professionals. Attendees were especially appreciative of the collaborative environment, the ability to network and discuss topics with experts and colleagues, the venue, and the food!

If you or your AIHA Local Section is interested in working with local museums and conservation guilds, or would like to hold a similar seminar in your area, please contact Mary Kay Snow, president of the AIHA Potomac Section, via email for more information. 

Related: In May 2016, The Synergist re-published an article from its archives titled “Hidden Hazards: Health and Safety in Museums and Art Galleries.”