The Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) is a multidisciplinary international organization composed of individuals and institutions who are interested in the development and preservation of natural history collections. Under the direction of the SPNHC Conservation Committee and its Research Subcommittee, the project coordinator surveyed the SPNHC membership by mail to develop an updated list of priorities for natural history collections conservation research. This report summarizes background information, development and implementation of the survey instrument, results and data analysis of this project.

The survey instrument was developed with input from a core group of 40 professionals. The results from a previous multidisciplinary project on the conservation of natural science collections (Duckworth et al. 1993) and projects on conservation research needs conducted by the American Institute for Conservation (Derrick 1996, Hansen and Reedy 1994) were used as a guide for the development of topics for research and/or transfer of information. Given the variety of disciplines and job functions represented within the SPNHC membership, the survey was structured to permit analysis of respondents’ most critical needs based on their job functions and type of materials.

The survey was mailed to 548 individual and institutional SPNHC members in September, 1999. From the 244 surveys returned, 229 were used for analysis, representing 42% of the membership. Responses were analysed and tables included in the report show percentages and weighted averages for research priorities. Sixteen topics were rated with an above average priority rating. Ten of these topics were selected by at least half of the respondents as the highest two ratings:

  • Impact of preparation materials and methodologies on chemical and physical properties of specimens;
  • Impact of preparation materials and methodologies on scientific utility of specimens;
  • Development of preparation methodologies that maximize scientific utility of specimens;
  • Impact of treatments on the scientific utility of specimens;
  • Methods to assess systematically the condition of specimens over time;
  • Methods to assess systematically the condition of a collection of specimens over time;
  • Methods to assess risks to collections to rationally identify priorities for collection preservation investments and research;
  • Proper relative humidity and temperature parameters for general collection;
  • Materials specifications for containers;
  • Methods for repair/restoration of damaged specimens.

This research was made possible through Grant MT-2210-8-NC-33 from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT).

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