Building A Collection's Care Index: An Approach to Helping Preserve Our Cultural Heritage Before It Disappears

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Cultural heritage is important to everyone. Whether it is family heirlooms passed down through generations, or the archaeological evidence of lost civilizations, we preserve these things to have them for future generations. To protect them, it is important that specialists have the knowledge and skills to handle the multiple challenges that can result from, or that can prevent, deterioration. These professionals perform care duties regularly in organizations such as archives, libraries and museums. Any organization with an historical, art, or circulating collection that performs these duties is a collections-based institution, and these institutions are responsible for the difficult and specialized care of the collection items.

This study analyzes data from a national survey called the Heritage Health Information (HHI) Study 2014 that asked collections-based institutions about their regular care practice. The HHI survey measured practice from U.S. institutions

resulting in a robust 1,714 responses. New analysis in this dissertation builds a collections care index from HHI, then performs a multiple regression on the index score.

The index process begins by identifying a common list of twelve key practices in collections care. Each practice is reviewed prior to the scoring in the index to ensure valid results. An original scoring rubric assigns a score to each practice, then all scores are added into a single composite index score. In a second analysis, the index score serves as the dependent variable in a multiple regression where organizational type, budget size, total staff count, and the count of collections items are independent variables to measure the effect each can have on the composite score.

The findings from the index show that the highest count of scores clustered around the mid-range of the distribution indicating that most organizations are doing some care duties. The regression findings show large budgets had the greatest effect on scores.

The index is the key contribution of this study serving as a tool to help organizations determine how their efforts to perform each responsibility contributes to their overall management. This has implications for performance management and resource allocations for cultural heritage organizations, as well as, professional associations.