IPI’s environmental research activities provide practical solutions for libraries, archives, and museums to achieve sustainable environmental management strategies that achieve the best possible preservation environment while using the least amount of energy necessary. The process of implementing energy-saving strategies, while maintaining or improving preservation quality, requires a series of carefully defined, risk-managed steps that test individual energy-saving strategies to identify the appropriate final approach for a unique collection, space, and mechanical system. While no single solution will work for every institution, there are a series of practical energy-saving strategies that will work in some combination for nearly any collecting institution.
In collecting institutions an environmental management team that includes both collections and facilities staff creates a structure in which the insights gained from environmental monitoring are actively used to inform environmental management. Institutions that have been most successful at the team approach to environmental management are able to implement regular meetings of collections and facilities staff to review data, discuss strategy, plan for changes, and generally inform each other about what is going on in their respective worlds. Environmental data drives these discussions, and therefore starting with a well-established monitoring program is essential.
States Consulted In
IPI advises collecting institutions nationally and internationally.
Awarded in Research
Multiple research grants have informed IPI’s resources and consulting services in sustainable preservation practice.
Years of Research
IPI has conducted research for over 20 years in environmental management.
Cost-Efficient and Environmentally Responsible Preservation Methods for Preparing Paper-Based Objects for Transit and Display
This three-year research project will explore the most cost-efficient and environmentally responsible methods of preparing paper-based collection objects for transit and display while also maintaining preservation standards. The project will include both field and laboratory research. The project team will collect environmental data from multiple museums’ shipping crates simultaneously. Laboratory experimentation will include testing the safety and relative humidity buffering capacity of crate packing materials and methods, and varied microenvironment-sealed frame package designs used to protect objects during transit and display. Guidelines from this project will be useful to all museums with exhibition and loan programs and have the potential to reduce the cost and material waste associated with thousands of museum objects prepared annually for transit and display.
Institute of Museum and Library Services
2020 - 2023
Training Sustainable Environmental Management Teams for Cultural Institutions
This two-year project is focused on improving and increasing the capacity of humanities collections professionals to independently establish and maintain sustainable environmental management programs. In cultural institutions an environmental management team that includes both collections and facilities staff creates a structure in which the insights gained from environmental monitoring are actively used to inform environmental management. Webinars and workshops will provide essential knowledge and skills necessary for small, mid-size, and large institutions working to balance the preservation quality of collections environments with responsible building management and lower energy costs. This project has the potential to simultaneously improve the long-term preservation of humanities collections across the US while reducing the long-term costs associated with preserving those collections.
National Endowment for the Humanities
2019 - 2020
Kelly McCauley Krish
IPI’s preservation environment studies have explored the feasibility and effectiveness of intentional HVAC shutdowns, temperature and RH setbacks, the implementation of HVAC-controlled RH profiles, and the impact of temperature transitions on moisture content in hygroscopic collections materials. In 2017, IPI completed an online guidebook, IPI’s Methodology for Implementing Sustainable Energy-Saving Strategies for Collections Environments, that outlines the IPI methodology for establishing sustainable environmental management programs in cultural institutions. The goal for the guidebook, a project funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, was to produce a resource specific to cultural institutions that professionals can use to identify, test, and assess implementing energy-saving strategies in collections spaces without the assistance of external consultants.
The cost of energy to heat, cool, and dehumidify can be a significant portion of an institutional budget, and a necessary investment for collecting institutions obligated to provide the best stewardship possible to the materials in their collections. Finding the appropriate balance between preservation and resource allocation goals is a process unique to each institution, based on their specific situation. Join a webinar, attend a workshop, and explore many resources on this topic at ipisustainability.org.
These three-day workshops are designed to guide participants through the process of facilitating a sustainable environmental management project and will empower participants to implement the methodology and techniques learned at their own institutions. This includes learning how to establish a project, collect environmental data from collection spaces and mechanical systems, and assess facilities and collections spaces as well as how to make informed decisions that will improve the preservation quality of collections environments while at the same time reducing energy consumption. Instruction will include evaluating building documentation including images and building plans allowing participants to collaboratively practice interpreting and understanding facilities documentation. It is intended that each participating institution send several participants (two to four) that represent multiple departments and the basis of an environmental management team. Each team should consist of no less than a collections representative and a facilities representative. Participants will work within their institutional teams during breakout sessions to build trust, comradery, and common knowledge. IPI instructors will oversee the sessions and assist teams throughout the process. Successful applicants must have at least one year of collections environmental data obtained through active environmental monitoring.