Philadelphia Stewardship Program Track 1: Preservation Needs Assessment

“To create a collection, to inherit one, or to be given oversight of a collection, is also to create, inherit, or accept a great responsibility.  The challenge for collecting institutions is to meet the charge of stewardship and to assure that their valued collections, whether works of art, historical documents, scientific specimens, library collections, or other forms of material culture, are preserved for future generations.”

Position Paper on Conservation and Preservation in Collecting Institutions
The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, 2004

The American Association of Museums recommends that all collecting institutions receive a preservation needs assessment as a first step in developing a preservation plan for collections.  In addition to pinpointing areas of concern, the preservation needs assessment is widely recognized as a valuable tool in fundraising for collections.  Through Track 1 of the Philadelphia Stewardship Program, the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) assists organizations with the creation of a needs assessment report.  The following is the formal definition of a needs assessment, as described in Preservation Planning: Guidelines for Writing a Long-Range Plan by Roxana Adams:

Needs assessment survey:  “An evaluation of the policies, practices, and conditions in an institution that have an impact on the preservation of the institution’s collections.”

Through Track 1 of the Philadelphia Stewardship Program of the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA), participating organizations will receive a free preservation needs assessment and have the opportunity to participate in workshops that are designed to train staff in various important aspects of collections care.  Organizations that complete Track 1 will be eligible to apply for entry into subsequent tracks of the Philadelphia Stewardship Program that offer assistance with preservation planning, emergency planning, and collections management policies.

While preparing a needs assessment survey, CCAHA preservation services staff members work one-on-one with organizations to meet their unique needs.  By viewing the conditions on-site, the CCAHA consultant gains a unique perspective on the individual situation of each organization.  These visits often offer opportunities for education, personal attention, and mentoring.  Through the vantage point of having assisted many other institutions on-site, the CCAHA consultant can often share creative and affordable recommendations and solutions to preservation problems.

The needs assessment survey process encompasses a general evaluation of the institution’s preservation needs for the collections: environment (temperature, relative humidity, pollution, and light), housekeeping, pest control, fire protection, security and disaster preparedness, collection storage, handling, exhibition, and treatment. Interviews with relevant staff will be conducted to identify preservation needs.  The final written report provides observations and recommendations to serve as guides for staff and Board members as they deal with collection care issues and engage in preservation planning.

At the end of the year, all organizations participating in the program will be eligible to apply for a competitive regrant of up to $5,000 in restricted funding which must be matched 1:1 by the organization.  All projects must be related to the organization’s needs assessment.  Eligible expenses will include fees for consultant services; purchase of storage materials, environmental monitoring equipment, or appropriate exhibition display materials; and conservation treatment of selected items. Up to 30% of the match may be designated for staff salaries covering time restricted to work on the project. Ineligible expenses include organizational overhead costs, building construction or repair, and capital improvements.

Participants are also eligible to receive a free 1-2 hour consultation with CCAHA’s Director of Development specifically about development, resource allocation, and fundraising to implement recommendations.

Criteria for Participation

To be considered for participation in Track 1 of CCAHA's Philadelphia Stewardship Program, an organization must be located within the counties of Bucks, Camden, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, or Philadelphia, and have a historic collection available to the public.  The program requires a commitment throughout the rest of 2022. A staff member must be identified who will work with the CCAHA consultant.  Preference will be given to organizations that:

  • have collections that are unique or of significant historical or artifactual value; and
  • demonstrate a willingness to develop and maintain a preservation program.

This program is intended for organizations that do not have a preservation needs assessment or for institutions with out-of-date assessments. Organizations that have an assessment that reflects current conditions at their institution should contact CCAHA to discuss participation in the other tracks of the Stewardship Program.

Application Process

Applications for the Philadelphia Stewardship program are currently closed. 

Established in 1977, the mission of the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) is to provide expertise and leadership in the preservation of the world’s cultural heritage.  CCAHA is a non-profit conservation laboratory serving other non-profit cultural, educational, and research institutions, as well as private individuals and organizations.  CCAHA specializes in the treatment of works of art and historic artifacts on paper.  It also offers on-site consultation services; educational programs and seminars; internships, fellowships, and apprenticeships; and emergency conservation assistance.

The Philadelphia Stewardship Program is funded by the William Penn Foundation which strives to improve the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that foster rich cultural expression, strengthen children’s futures, and deepen connections to nature and community.  In partnership with others, the William Penn Foundations works to advance a vital, just, and caring community.