New standard from BSI helps protect the UK’s cultural collections and address carbon emissions

Press release - 28th March 2012

BSI has published a new standard for managing environmental conditions for archive, library and museum collections in the UK.

PAS 198:2012- Specification for managing environmental conditions for cultural collections - has been developed by BSI in collaboration with The National Archives, with additional sponsorship from Collections Trust; CyMAL: Museums Archives and Libraries Wales, a division of the Welsh Government; and The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).

PAS 198 breaks new ground by providing a framework for risk based decision making. Its aim is to support collecting organizations in specifying beneficial environmental conditions for the particular objects in their care. Collecting organizations will take into account the sensitivity of the objects in their collections and make their own judgements about the conditions that will help prevent rapid deterioration or irreversible damage. The risk-based framework of the PAS reflects an increasing acceptance of a new approach to setting environmental conditions which allows for a more responsible use of energy. It also reflects research findings that a move is needed away from a prescriptive to an evidence-led approach to environmental management.

This new standard has been developed in response to a statement issued by the UK’s National Museum Director’s Conference that “museums need to approach long-term collection care in a way that does not require excessive use of energy, while recognising their duty of care to collections”.

“Objects in collections are made up of materials which react in different ways to different agents of deterioration, and often have a complex structure combining a number of materials,” said Nancy Bell, Head of Collection Care at The National Archives. “Although deterioration cannot be prevented altogether, it can be significantly slowed down through good management of the collection environment.”

Dr Scott Steedman, Director of BSI Standards, commented: “The publication of PAS198 represents an important step in the development of standards to preserve our country’s national assets. It will help collecting organizations take into account the sensitivity of the objects in their collections and make their own judgements about the conditions that will help prevent rapid deterioration or irreversible damage.”

PAS 198 complements other work in progress in related areas, in particular a review of BS 5454:2000, a standard for the storage and exhibition of archival documents, which will be reissued shortly as PD 5454. Also in development is a new European standard: “New sites and buildings intended for the storage and use of collections” under the aegis of CEN, the European Committee for Standardization.

Publication of PAS 198:2012 in a printed coloured format has been made possible with the generous support of The National Trust Scotland, Historic Scotland, National Records for Scotland and Collections Trust. 

About BSI

BSI (British Standards Institution) is a global organization that equips businesses with the necessary solutions to turn standards of best practice into habits of excellence. Formed in 1901, BSI was the world’s first National Standards Body and a founding member of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Over a century later it continues to facilitate business improvement across the globe by helping its clients drive performance, reduce risk and grow sustainably through the adoption of international management systems standards, many of which BSI originated. Famed for its marks of excellence including the instantly recognizable Kitemark®, BSI’s influence spans multiple sectors including aerospace, construction, energy, engineering, finance, healthcare, IT and retail. With over 70,000 clients in 150 countries, BSI is an organization whose standards inspire excellence across the globe.