Collection Conservation Policy

The Nova Scotia Museum (NSM) acknowledges the inherent value of the specimens, artifacts and historical structures that make up its collection. They are material evidence of the natural and cultural environments that have existed within the province and as such are irreplaceable. The NSM recognizes that a balance must be struck between preservation of the collection for the future, and its use for research, exhibition and educational purposes.

This policy and its spirit will be applied when conserving, restoring or otherwise intervening directly (physical changes) or indirectly (environmental changes) with the artifacts, specimens and historical structures that make up the NSM collection.

This policy is to be used in conjunction with the NSM Collection Management Policy, the NSM Collection Management Guidelines and Procedures Manual, and the NSM Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Plan.


Conservation is the application of science to the examination, maintenance and treatment of artifacts or specimens. Its principal aim is to stabilize artifacts and specimens in their present state. It encompasses both preventive conservation and conservation treatments.

Preventive conservation consists of non-intrusive actions taken to slow or stop deterioration and to prevent damage.

Conservation treatments involve interventions causing changes in the physical properties or structure of the objects.

Restoration involves the removal or modification of existing material, or the addition of new material in order to reinstate earlier known aesthetic, historical or scientific values.


In its conservation activities the NSM will be consistent with established professional standards and ethics as stated in Code of Ethics and Guidance for Practice for Those Involved in the Conservation of Cultural Property in Canada (The International Institute for Conservation, Canadian Group, 1989).


Preventive conservation provides the most effective use of resources for preservation of the collection. The application of preventive conservation measures will take precedence over conservation treatments. Conservation treatments will take precedence over restoration.

The NSM maintains a working collection of artifacts and specimens for use in public and school programs. These may be operated or handled by staff, volunteers or the public. They may be considered expendable. In the application of conservation measures, the permanent collection will take priority over the working collection.

All physical interventions, whether to an artifact, building or site, will be based on sufficient research to identify and safeguard the historical values concerned. The history and evidence of past use of the item will be respected. Contributions from all periods of the item's existence will be taken into account when deciding the appropriate level of intervention. Any physical intervention will be fully documented, including the reason for it, what the intervention was, who performed it and when it was carried out.

The historical structures within the NSM collection require various physical interventions depending on factors such as condition, date of interpretation, modern use or program needs. These may include conservation and restoration treatments, regular building maintenance (both preventive and reactive), or greater interventions such as roof replacement or structural bracing. The priority of these activities will be set by the Division Director or designate. Where applicable this will be done in conjunction with appropriate personnel from the Department of Transportation and Public Works. A long-term maintenance plan will be developed for the buildings that takes into account the cyclical nature of general maintenance.


All NSM Board and staff members have the duty to ensure the long-term preservation of the collection. Within NSM divisions the primary responsibility lies with the Division Director. Functional responsibility for preservation activities may be delegated to Managers, Curators, Registrars or other designates.

Further NSM staff responsibilities are detailed below:

  • All staff are responsible for maintaining the security of the collection. This encompasses protection from damage, deterioration or loss.
  • Any staff member who discovers a preservation problem must report it immediately to the appropriate curatorial staff.
  • Appropriate staff members will strive to establish and maintain a high standard in conditions of storage, display, use and handling of the collection.
  • Appropriate staff members will strive to provide safe and secure environments that will not contribute to deterioration of artifacts on display and in storage.
  • Appropriate staff members will strive to provide safe and secure environments in and around the historical structures, which will not contribute to the deterioration of them or of the contained artifacts.
  • Any staff member who has physical access to the collection must use appropriate care and handling techniques.
  • Any staff member who provides physical access to the collection to a non-staff member is responsible for ensuring that the person understands and agrees to use appropriate care and handling techniques.


Conservation and restoration treatments will follow a course of minimal intervention in the fabric of the object.

Whenever possible, reversible techniques and materials will be used in treatments or when any physical change is made to an object, including the attachment of accession or catalogue numbers, or mounting for display.

Restorations will be historically accurate, while not being deceptive as to originality.

Restorations will be easily detectable, although not necessarily conspicuous.


The NSM will not normally give out conservation treatment advice as a result of a public inquiry. Conservation advice for public inquiries will be limited to preventive measures. When the information is within the area of professional expertise of the adviser, exceptions may be made for the following circumstances:

  • It can be reasonably ascertained that the person can carry out the treatment in a competent and ethical manner.
  • The inquiry comes as the result of an emergency situation.

The NSM will not carry out conservation treatments for the public. Exceptions may be made for the following circumstances:

  • In response to an emergency situation.
  • In extraordinary circumstances, such as revenue generating opportunities, at the discretion of the Division Director.
  • Whenever possible, the NSM will cooperate with other heritage institutions and levels of government in matters relating to conservation and preservation.


The NSM may refer an inquirer to outside agents to have a treatment carried out. The NSM adviser must have enough knowledge of the outside agent's capabilities to be reasonably confident that the work will be of a high standard. Whenever possible, the names of two or more agents should be offered to the inquirer.
The NSM will at no time take responsibility, financial or otherwise, for the outcome of conservation activities carried out as a result of an inquiry or referral. In all cases this will be communicated to the inquirer.


The following subjects are detailed in the Collections Management Guidelines and Procedures Manual at the listed section and related appendices.

Training 7A.1
Handling, Packing and Transportation  7A.2
Condition Reports 7A.3
Storage 7A.4
Security, Inventory and Condition Checks 7A.5
Monitoring the Environment  7A.6
Exhibition Requirements  7A.7
Conservation Treatment Priorities 7A.8
Working Collection 8.3