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Conservation Assessment Program
Assessors Frequently Asked Questions


What is CAP?

Heritage Preservation's Conservation Assessment Program (CAP) is supported through a cooperative agreement with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). CAP provides general conservation assessments for small museums. The goal of the assessment is to give the museum a basis on which to form plans and policies for the long-term care and preservation of its collections. By doing so, a museum establishes conservation as an integral part of its mission and will support it through policies and activities that reflect a commitment to collections care.

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What does a CAP Assessment entail?

The CAP assessment is a general conservation survey that includes a broad study of museum policies, procedures, and conditions that relate to and affect collections care: museum staffing and training, policies and procedures concerning the use of collections, storage and exhibition conditions, and the museum environment, including the fabrication and the condition of structures housing collections.

In the case of historic buildings, the proper care and preservation of the structure is an equally important consideration. Museums in historic structures will receive the on site participation of both a collections and a historic structures assessor. As the preservation needs of a historic structure and the collections are interrelated, this collaboration is vital to the assessors’ success. Generally, 70 percent of the recipients require a historic structures assessor.

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How do I become a CAP Assessor?

Heritage Preservation must approve all assessors that participate in CAP. Assessors should meet the following requirements as recommended by the CAP Advisory Committee:

To apply, potential assessors should submit the following materials to Heritage Preservation:

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What types of museums get CAPped?

All types of museums participate in the program: aquariums; arboreta, botanical gardens and nature centers; art museums/centers; children’s museums; historic houses and sites; history, science, and natural history museums; science technology centers and planetariums; specialized museums; and zoos.

Many of the museums who go through the CAP process are small and have limited resources. Most often, their institutional budgets are small, and the daily practical needs of opening a museum to the public frequently preempt more long-range goals. CAP provides an opportunity for the institution’s staff to work with a consultant and gives them insight and goals for improving collections care and preservation within the organization. Keeping these principles in mind throughout the CAP process helps bring about positive outcomes for museum and assessor alike.

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How are fees structured?

Approximately 100 museums will participate in CAP each year. Allocation amounts depend on whether one or two assessors visit the museum and range from $3,390 to $7,190. If the assessment cost is more than the allocation, the museum is responsible for paying the difference.

Assessor fees are determined between the institution and individual assessor. This includes professional fees, per diem, transportation costs, and any additional expenses (such as telephone calls, duplicating, postage, and photography). Fees are based on a two-day site visit and three days of report writing.

Upon completion of the final report, the assessor sends two copies to the institution, along with an invoice for the assessment fee. The institution will forward one copy of the report and the invoice to Heritage Preservation, who will pay the invoice. Assessors should expect payment from Heritage Preservation within four weeks of the museum’s receipt of the final report. Any costs for travel expenses over the allocation amount will be paid to the assessor directly by the museum.

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What is the schedule for doing CAP assessments?

CAP participants contact and hire assessors between October and February. Site visits can be scheduled anytime after January 1 of the program year. The site visit cannot take place until all required materials are submitted to Heritage Preservation by the participating organization and approved by Heritage Preservation. The institution and assessor determine the date of the site visit as well as the due dates for the rough draft and final report. Normally, a rough draft is sent to the museum within eight weeks of the site visit. It is very important that this schedule is followed. Many museums use the recommendations outlined in the report to secure funding for preservation projects. All assessments and final reports must be completed by November 1 of the program year.

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How do I prepare for the site visit?

The more prepared you are when you arrive, the more productive and efficient you will be on site. Heritage Preservation asks participating museums to complete a Site Questionnaire about the collections and buildings and sends a copy to the assessor before the site visit to give a sense of the preservation issues that may need to be addressed. You may also wish to contact the museum ahead of time for copies of administrative documents regarding the management of collections, previous consultation reports, floor plans, and printed materials used to promote the institution to the public. Historic structures assessors might want to request blueprints and previous architectural reports.

The administrative documents can be revealing. Gathering this information before going on site will provide a perspective on how collections care currently fits into the management of the site at large. Sometimes the documents don’t exist. When they do exist, there can be discrepancies between what is written and what is being done at the site. Since policies and practices can be very different, don’t rely solely on policies. The CAP process can help bring these practices and policies in sync.

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Is there a certain way I need to conduct the site visit?

There are as many ways to conduct site visits as there are assessors, and no single method is right or wrong. However, site visits should contain three elements: an initial interview, an in-depth walk-through and assessment, and an exit interview. See "The Site Visit" chapter in the Handbook for Assessors for more information. Also see Appendix D, Collections Assessment Guidelines in the Handbook for Assessors for a checklist of collections care issues that should be addressed during the site visit. Each assessor receives a copy of the Handbook for Assessors when he or she is approved to participate in the Conservation Assessment Program.

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What should I write in the CAP report? Is there a standard form I need to follow?

There is no formal outline to follow when writing a CAP report. However, each report should contain the following information:

Though some standard conservation information will be woven into the topical summary, the report should be custom-made for each institution. In addition, reports should take into consideration the limited resources of the museum. See the "The CAP Report" section in the Handbook for Assessor for more information.

If we did not answer your question, please e-mail the CAP staff at cap(a)heritagepreservation.org or call 202-233-0800.

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