Conservation Assessment Program Frequently Asked Questions
The CAP Assessment
- What is a general conservation assessment?
- What is the difference between a general conservation assessment and a collection or object-by-object survey?
- How will CAP help my museum?
- Our museum wants to apply for CAP, but shouldn’t we wait until we get our collections storage organized?
- We have a historic house museum. How can CAP help us?
- Is our botanical garden or zoo eligible for CAP?
- If our museum is closed during the winter, will we still meet the eligibility requirement of being open 90 days a year?
- Our museum has a volunteer staffare we too small for CAP?
- We are raising funds for a new museum in our community. Can CAP help?
- We are not a museum, but we have collections. Are we eligible for CAP?
- Our museum recently had some changes in staff. Should we apply for CAP this year anyway?
- What if my museum is not eligible for CAP?
The CAP Site Visit Before, During, and After
- But I already know what’s wrong at my museum. What I need is a board that will take action and raise money to fix the problems!
- Will there be any costs for my museum to participate?
- We’ve never worked with conservators before. How do we find the assessors to do our CAP?
- What will the assessors look at when they visit our museum?
- Our museum has several historic buildings. How long will the assessor be on site?
- What can we do to implement the professional advice we get through CAP?
- We had CAP several years ago and would like to update our CAP report. Can we apply again?
- How do I know if my museum needs another general assessment?
- How can I check whether my museum has been through CAP?
CAP and MAP
- Are CAP and MAP the same?
- Are we required to have an assessment through MAP before we apply to CAP?
- Our museum has been through the Museum Assessment Program’s institutional assessment and collections management assessment. Should we still get a CAP?
- Can we do a CAP and MAP at the same time?
Heritage Preservation and The Institute of Museum and Library Services
How do I apply?
The CAP Assessment
What is a general conservation assessment?
A general conservation assessment is a broad study of museum conditions, policies, and procedures that relate to and affect collections care, including:
- storage and exhibition conditions
- museum environment
- fabrication and condition of structures housing collections
- museum staffing and training
- policies and procedures concerning the use of collections.
For the Conservation Assessment Program (CAP), professional conservators spend two days on-site conducting the assessment and three days writing a report with prioritized recommendations.
CAP only provides general conservation assessments. It does not provide an object-by-object survey, conservation treatment or supplies, building preservation projects, or general operating costs.
What is the difference between a general conservation assessment and a collection or object-by-object survey?
While a general conservation assessment is a broad study of museum conditions, a collection survey evaluates each object individually. This includes identifying the material type, condition, and conservation needs or priorities for each object.
CAP does not provide an object-by-object survey. If your museum needs a collection survey rather than a general assessment, you should apply for a Museums for America (MFA) grant through the Institute of Museum and Library Services. More information on MFA is available here. The deadline to apply for the next round of MFA grants is January 15, 2013.
How will CAP help my museum?
CAP gives your museum technical advice from a conservation or preservation professional. The assessor will observe the current condition of your collection and evaluate conditions affecting your collections in exhibit, storage, and working areas. He or she will then produce a report documenting the assessment findings. CAP reports can provide the blueprint for helping your museum improve collections care, develop a long-range conservation plan, and raise awareness and funds for the museum’s conservation needs.
Our museum wants to apply for CAP, but shouldn’t we wait until we get our collections storage organized?
You may participate in CAP only once every seven years, so make sure that your museum has a thorough assessment. If the assessor cannot access collections storage, he or she cannot complete an important part of the assessment. However, if it is possible for a conservator to observe the conditions in your collections storage, you could get valuable advice on how to make improvements. Keep in mind that CAP assessors have seen many types of museums and your concerns about collections care are probably not unique. Also, the longer you wait to seek advice from a professional conservator, the longer your collection may remain in poor or even dangerous conditions.
We have a historic house museum. How can CAP help us?
Because the preservation needs of historic structures and collections are interrelated, museums in historic structuresbuildings over 50 years oldreceive funds for both a collections and a historic structures assessor. CAP assessments do not include building repairs, but the site visit and report can help you prioritize repairs and advise you on how to best preserve your building with respect to its historic nature and use as a museum. The collaboration of both assessors will also help your museum develop a long-range conservation plan that integrates collections and historic buildings.
Is our botanical garden or zoo eligible for CAP?
Yes. If your institution has living collections, you will be awarded a botanist, horticulturist, or zoologist as one of your assessors. If your museum has nonliving collections or a historic structure, you may also be offered a second assessor. AZA accredited institutions are ineligible for living collections assessments for their living animal collections.
If our museum is closed during the winter, will we still meet the eligibility requirement of being open 90 days a year?
Perhaps. For instance, if your museum were open five days per week for five months of the year, you would meet the requirement of being open 90 days. If the regular museum schedule does not total at least 90 days open, you may also meet this requirement through special appointments and tours. To document this in your application, you should submit a copy of the museum guest book or a similar appointment schedule that shows the museum was open on additional days outside the regular hours.
Our museum has a volunteer staffare we too small for CAP?
Not necessarilyCAP eligibility requirements state that your museum must have one full-time staff person, either paid or unpaid, who oversees the daily museum activities of the organization. If more than one person is responsible for the museum's professional activities, you should document that the work of several staff or volunteers is equivalent to one full-time staff member.
We are raising funds for a new museum in our community. Can CAP help?
No. To be eligible for CAP, a museum must have been open to the public for one year prior to applying and have been open a minimum of 90 days in that year. Additionally, CAP is only for a general conservation assessment. However, if the input of a conservator through a general conservation assessment would be helpful in planning your museum, you may use the CAP fee-for-service option. For more information contact the CAP staff at 202-233-0800 or cap(a)heritagepreservation.org.
We are not a museum, but we have collections. Are we eligible for CAP?
No. To participate in CAP, your organization must be a museum. See CAP eligibility.
Libraries, nonprofit organizations, state and local governmental agencies, and tribal governments may obtain an assessment for their historic collections through a National Endowment for the Humanities Preservation Assistance Grant. Preservation Assistance Grants help small and mid-size institutions improve their ability to preserve and care for their humanities collections. For more information, contact preservation(a)neh.gov or 202-606-8570.
Our museum recently had some changes in staff. Should we apply for CAP this year anyway?
You may only participate in CAP once every seven years, so you will want to consider this point carefully to ensure that your assessment is complete and useful. CAP assessors will need information about the collection from the museum director, curator, and/or registrar. If these positions are vacant or newly filled, and other staff persons cannot thoroughly provide this information, you should postpone your application. However, if current staff is able to assist the CAP assessors, the CAP reports can be an excellent way to document existing conditions for a future staff member or to help new staff improve collections care.
The CAP Site Visit Before, During, and After
But I already know what’s wrong at my museum. What I need is a board that will take action and raise money to fix the problems!
An assessment by a professional is the best way to begin making improvements correctly. CAP will help prioritize your needs and give your museum the proper advice for handling these issues. Observing the CAP site visit or meeting the CAP assessor is also a compelling way to involve key board members in conservation activities at your institution. Finally, getting the CAP recommendations in writing, from a professional outside your organization, will add validity to your concerns when you present them to board, staff, or potential funders.
Will there be any costs for my museum to participate?
The cost of a conservation assessment varies based on the number of assessors, their professional fees, the distance they must travel to the site, and the cost of lodging, meals, and other on-site expenses. To cover assessment costs, CAP participants are provided an allocation amount ranging from $3,390 to $7,190, depending on whether the museum needs one or two assessors and museum's budget size. If the total assessment cost is more than the allocation, the museum pays the difference. We suggest museums budget $400 to $1,000 to cover these potential costs.
We’ve never worked with conservators before. How do we find the assessors to do our CAP?
Heritage Preservation has a list of approved CAP assessors. We will use the information from your application to match your museum with several assessors who have experience working with collections like yours. Heritage Preservation will then mail you the assessor’s resume, references, and a list of their recent assessments. We will also send you a list of all assessors in your region. Should you want information on more assessors, Heritage Preservation will send it to you. CAP participants are required to contact assessors to discuss the project, negotiate the expenses, and hire them for the project. If you are interested in hiring a conservator who is not on the CAP assessor list, you may request that Heritage Preservation consider them for approval.
What will the assessors look at when they visit our museum?
Your CAP assessor will look at everything inside and outside your buildings: exhibits, storage areas, work spaces, mechanical or equipment rooms, and grounds. Before the assessors come on site, ask what areas they will need to access and if they require extra equipment or assistance (for example, historic structures assessors could need a ladder to look at the roof). Collections assessors will not have time to look at every object in your collection, but they will want to see what types of collections you have and under what conditions they are stored and exhibited. If there are objects or collections of particular concern, the collections assessor will make additional observations. The collections assessor will review policies regarding collections management, handling, security, exhibition, and emergency preparedness. The historic structures assessor will inspect all buildings (including mechanical systems) and will review policies and plans (including maintenance policies and logs) and building plans (including past renovations).
Our museum has several historic buildings. How long will the assessor be on site?
Two days. If your collections, storage areas, and sites are too large to be assessed in two days, then you will not have a thorough and useful CAP assessment. This can have negative consequences if you plan to seek Museums for America (MFA) funding to implement recommendations. Please keep in mind that historic structures assessors need to consider all aspects of the building: interior, exterior, roof, basement, HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems. If your site cannot be adequately assessed in two days, consider a general conservation assessment through IMLS’s MFA grant. More information on MFA is available here. The deadline to apply for the next round of MFA grants is January 15, 2013.
What can we do to implement the professional advice we get through CAP?
After your assessment is complete, Heritage Preservation will send you information about collections care training workshops and courses as well as reference materials and publications on collections care, building preservation, fund-raising, and federal grant programs for conservation. Twice a year Heritage Preservation will also send your museum CAPabilities, a newsletter featuring success stories from other CAPped museums, grant deadlines, educational opportunities, and fund-raising tips.
After participating in CAP, IMLS’s Museums for America (MFA) is often a good start for federal funding for conservation projects. MFA funds may be used for detailed condition or environmental surveys, training, research, treatment, and environmental improvements. More information on MFA is available here. The deadline to apply for the next round of MFA grants is January 15, 2013.
We had CAP seven years ago and have since accomplished many recommendations and hired a new director. If our CAP report is out of date, can we apply again?
Yes! ReCAP is available for the Conservation Assessment Program. Museums that participated in CAP seven or more years ago may be eligible to update their CAP assessment. Applicants must report on their preservation efforts and the need for a new assessment. Contact the CAP staff for more information.
Museums may have changed significantly since their last CAP. Applicants must consider whether their collections and facilities can still be assessed within a two-day site visit. Organizations that are too large to be assessed within two days are not eligible.
If there have been significant changes in one area of your collection, you may find it useful to have a specific collection survey funded through IMLS's Museums for America (MFA) grant. More information on MFA is available here. The deadline to apply for the next round of MFA grants is January 15, 2013.
How do I know if my museum needs another general assessment?
Although the needs of museums vary, you might want to consider ReCAP if your museum:
- accomplished most of the recommendations from the original CAP report;
- would like to supplement the original CAP report and measure how well your preservation projects have progressed;
- underwent major institutional changes since the first assessment, such as changes in mission, governance, administration, or funding;
- acquired or changed facilities;
- changed the direction of the scope of collections;
- significantly expanded its collections; or
- suffered a significant loss from fire, flood, or other disaster.
Museums too large to be assessed within two days are not eligible for ReCAP. Museums who wish to have a partial or detailed object assessment should apply for a Museums for America (MFA) grant. For more information about the MFA program, visit www.imls.gov or contact the Office of Museum Services at 202-653-4789.
How can I check whether my museum has been through CAP?
You can search for past CAP participants at http://www.heritagepreservation.org/CAP/Search.html.
CAP and MAP
Are CAP and MAP the same?
The Conservation Assessment Program and the Museum Assessment Program have many similarities, but they are two different programs. The similarities include an institutional self-study, an “outside” opinion, and an assessment report at the end with recommendations for improvement. Both programs are also funded through a cooperative agreement with IMLS and have the same eligibility requirements.
As for the differences, please see the chart below:
Differences between CAP and MAP
Conservation Assessment Program
Museum Assessment Program
American Association of Museums
Type of museums that can participate:
Art to Zoo small and medium two day site visit limit is the restricting factor; larger museums should apply for Conservation Project Support
Art to Zoo - small, medium and large
Type of assessments:
Type of assessors:
Professional conservators and historic structures assessors
Peer review your colleagues in the museum field
Length of program:
So what is the difference between CAP and Collections MAP?
While there is some overlap between them (both will look at the collections storage area, for example), these programs complement one another by focusing on different aspects of collections care. Collections MAP examines the “big picture” - how policies, procedure, and planning affect collections care. CAP is more focused on preservation and conservation of the collections.
Are we required to have an assessment through MAP before we apply to CAP?
Participation in MAP is not required before CAP, but it can be advantageous to your museum. The Museum Assessment Program (a program of the American Association of Museums and supported through a cooperative agreement with the Institute of Museum and Library Services) helps museums define or improve their mission statement and collections management policies. Before learning how to better care for your collection through CAP, it is important to consider your institution’s purpose and procedures for collecting and exhibiting, and MAP can help you do so. In fact, many museums tell Heritage Preservation that participating in MAP’s institutional and collections management assessments helped prepare them for CAP. More information on MAP is available from the American Association of Museums at www.aam-us.org. The annual deadline is November 30th.
Our museum has been through the Museum Assessment Program’s institutional assessment and collections management assessment. Should we still get a CAP?
CAP is a good next step after MAP because it moves beyond museum and collections management to address specific conservation and preservation issues, such as the environmental conditions in the museum building(s) and exhibition, handling, and storage practices, as well as the general condition of your collections.
Can we do a CAP and MAP at the same time?
There is no rule that states a museum cannot participate in both programs at the same time. However, it is important to consider the time and resources that each program involves. You do not want to take on more than you and your staff can handle and you want to be sure to get the best possible experience with each program. We usually recommend that museums participate in CAP or MAP one at a time.
Heritage Preservation and The Institute of Museum and Library Services
Is Heritage Preservation part of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)?
NoHeritage Preservation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services are two separate organizations. Heritage Preservation is a national non-profit dedicated to the preservation of the nation’s artifacts. The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Heritage Preservation’s Conservation Assessment Program is supported through a cooperative agreement with the Institute. Heritage Preservation administers the Conservation Assessment Program and is where all reports and forms are sent. For more information on the Institute, please visit www.imls.gov.
Who is on the CAP Advisory Committee?
Click here for the list of Advisory Committee members.
How do I apply?
I’m ready for CAPwhen can I apply?
Applications for CAP are typically available in October and have a postmark deadline in December. For more information about the CAP application, click here.
If we did not answer your question, please e-mail the CAP staff at cap(a)heritagepreservation.org or call 202-233-0800.