Tag Archives: conservation

Putting IFLA’s Risk Register to Work

IFLA’s Risk Register works to help prevent the loss of documentary heritage collections of all kinds. It is a record of collections, combined with a suite of tools to help collection owners recognise risks and take steps towards risk reduction.

By recording information regarding irreplaceable documentary heritage collections, we are better prepared help secure their safety in the event of a human-caused or natural disaster. While information sharing is critical to allow for rapid response to disaster, the Risk Register itself is strictly confidential. Only when necessary would IFLA share this information with our official partners in cultural property protection, such as Blue Shield International and UNESCO.

Who is the Risk Register for?

The Risk Register is for institutions holding documentary heritage collections – big and small. These collections can be of value to a local community or on a national, regional, or international scale.

If you are holding a collection that you feel might be facing risk from natural disaster, conflict, or simply feel that you don’t know enough about risk reduction planning, this can help you find solutions.

Why use the Risk Register?

Complex threats can be better faced with the support of a network.

By registering a collection, you help ensure that it is known about in the face of disaster or conflict, and relevant actors can do what they can to help. If national infrastructures are weak – or indeed if the risk of harm to collections comes from governments themselves – using the register may be helpful.

Meanwhile, connecting documentary heritage collection owners to resources wherever they may be helps manage risks in advance. The Risk Register also compiles tools, guidelines, and advice from international experts to help inspire and inform action to safeguard your collection.

What if my collection is already registered?

The Risk Register does not aim to be an exhaustive list of all documentary heritage collections, and is strictly optional for collection owners and managers. If your collection is adequately covered on a national or other register, you are certainly not obliged to register it here as well.

Perhaps instead, you might want to share this information with collection holders in your network who are not eligible to be included on an alternative register.

How it Works

The IFLA Risk Register is comprised of three stages: Recognise, Register, and React.

Recognise: Do you recognise the risks that might be present for your collection? This step will provide tools and resources to get started assessing risk and creating a risk management plan.

Register: Having a properly catalogued collection is vital for risk reduction. Here you can begin the application process for inclusion on the IFLA Risk Register.

React: No matter your capacity level, there are most likely some steps you can take now to help reduce risk. This step provides tools, resources, and guidance to help.


A Guide to Taking Action

We need your help to safeguard the world’s documentary heritage. By registering as many collections as possible, we can more effectively identify when collections may be in danger and inform rapid-response and recovery efforts.

Step 1: Consider Collections within Your Institution

Are there risks present that could put your institution’s irreplaceable collections in danger? Be sure to consider the risk factors in your region for the following:

  • Natural disaster (hurricanes, tsunamis, flooding)
  • Civil unrest, armed conflict
  • Fire and accidents
  • Theft and trafficking of cultural property

For resources on assessing risk, see The Risk Register: Recognise.

Take Action:


Step 2: Raise Awareness in your Network

Your network in your country and region is an invaluable resource for connecting collection-owners with the Risk Register.

Take action:

Help promote the Risk Register as a resource for documentary heritage collection holders. Share resources in your network to assist in risk assessment and disaster planning. See The Risk Register: Recognise for tools.

  • Post the link to the Risk Register on your website (see sample text below!)
  • Share information on the Register on your social media and other communication channels

Step 3: Proactively connect Collection-Holders

Your knowledge of local and regional documentary heritage collections and stakeholders can help the Risk Register be its most effective.

Take action: 

Are you aware of collections within your country or region that could benefit from inclusion on the Risk Register? Reach out to the collection holders directly or put them in touch with IFLA HQ (claire.mcguire@ifla.org) for more information and support during the registration process.


  • Think about collections that are not listed on the Memory of the World list, or otherwise registered on national-level registries. Are they at risk of being forgotten? Consider them as a priority.
  • Does your region have documentary heritage collections, such as manuscript libraries, that are held in private or family collections? Could sharing information about the IFLA Risk Register be a way to expand your relationship with these collection-owners?


Sample Messaging – News or Website

Title: Discover IFLA’s Risk Register

During natural or human-caused disasters, information sharing is vital in order to prevent unnecessary losses, but also challenging. The International Federation of Library Associations and institutions (IFLA) Risk Register helps identify irreplaceable documentary heritage collections. In the event of a disaster, this means that the information necessary to help secure their safety is immediately available to those who can help.

Registering your documentary heritage collection can be used to inform rapid-response and recovery efforts. IFLA does not make this information public, but, when necessary, will share with official cultural property protection partners such as UNESCO and Blue Shield International.

How it works

The IFLA Risk Register is comprised of three stages: Recognise, Register, and React.

  1. Recognise: Do you recognise the risks that might be present for your collection? This step will provide tools and resources to get started assessing risk and creating a risk management plan.
  2. Register: Having a properly catalogued collection is vital for risk reduction. Here you can begin the application process for inclusion on the IFLA Risk Register.
  3. React: No matter your capacity level, there are most likely some steps you can take now to help reduce risk. This step provides tools, resources, and guidance to help.

Who is the Risk Register For?

The Risk Register is for institutions holding documentary heritage collections – big and small. These collections can be of value to a local community or on a national, regional, or international scale. If you are holding a collection that you feel might be facing risk from natural disaster or conflict, or simply feel that you need to know more about risk reduction planning, this can help you find solutions.

Find out more online here: The IFLA Risk Register


Open your “Virtual Doors” – Conservation and Access to Cultural Heritage

Open your “virtual doors” to the public!

This is the call to action for the 3rd annual European Day of Conservation and Restoration (11 October), for which the E.C.C.O. (European Confederation of Conservator-Restorers’ Organisations) invites Conservator-Restorers from all around Europe to give a glimpse into their work via social media.

In this time, when more of our engagement with culture than ever needs to take place from home, the ability not only to access cultural heritage, but also to see the process of its conservation and preservation is important. It raises awareness of the expertise that goes into the protection of, and access to, our cultural heritage.

It is this expertise, held by practitioners in museums, archives, galleries, universities, and of course libraries, that allows us to access, enjoy, learn, and benefit from the world’s cultural heritage – even from home.

Why Documentary Heritage Matters

The value of documentary heritage, stated by UNESCO, is promoting “the sharing of knowledge for greater understanding and dialogue, in order to promote peace and respect for freedom, democracy, human rights and dignity”. Preservation is a key element in realising this potential.

Photographs, manuscripts, books, journals, public records, audio-visual material – the survival of the documentary heritage that is held in the collections of libraries around the world relies on the precise and scientific practice of conservation as much as the paintings and antiquities in the world’s museums do.

As such, Conservator-Restorers have an essential role to play in the implementation of the UNESCO 2015 Recommendation for the Preservation and Access to Documentary Heritage, including in Digital Form.

In the segment Preservation, UNESCO encourages member states not only to carry out practices to ensure the long-term preservation of documentary heritage, but as well to develop awareness-raising and capacity-building measures and policies, such as promoting research and providing training and facilities. 

Conservation and Restoration: A Necessary Precondition for Access

In line with this year’s European Day of Conservation and Restoration theme, experiences with culture and heritage during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic have largely existed in the virtual space.

With the worldwide halting of tourism and restrictions or physical closures of museums, libraries, archives, and galleries, there is hardly an institution that does have an interest in ways to connect virtually their public to their collections.

IFLA has recently shared tips for collection-holding institutions to create digital engagement during this time and beyond. Yet the truth is that the need for online engagement will continue even after COVID-19 is a thing of the past.

Little of this engagement would be possible without the conservation and digitisation of our heritage objects.

The IFLA Guidelines for Setting Up a Digital Unification Project (2019) take collection holders through the steps they must consider when carrying out a project that centres on digitisation. In this practical guide, the very first step of “Managing the project” is Conservation/Preservation.

The guidelines state: “Documents that are not in a fit state to be digitised without damage have to be restored to an appropriate level.”

During the time of COVID-19, when many in the cultural heritage sector are relying on digital collections to connect them with their public, the role of conservators remains a crucial step in ensuring cultural heritage is accessible.

What Can Libraries Do?

As highlighted, our documentary heritage gives us a record of the memory of the world – a look at the past that connects us with one another, to the generations that came before, and, through its conservation, to the generations to come.

Libraries have a critical role to play, both in carrying out this conservation work, and in educating their visitors on what goes on “behind the scenes” to ensure these collections remain accessible.

Public interest in heritage can be increased through allowing a peak behind the curtain.

Libraries can help educate their communities on the work of Conservator-Restorers in their institution through programming both in-person, such as tours of conservation spaces, as well as virtually, though videos, lectures, and other content shared online and through social media.

Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Centres

Over the past year, IFLA’s Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Centres, hosted in libraries around the world, have carried out multiple programmes that connect both the library’s visitors and other professionals with their preservation and conservation work.

PAC Korea, hosted at the National Library of Korea in Seoul, Republic of Korea, hosts an annual Special Stacks Tour during Library Week in mid-April. Registered guests could join tours of the inside area of preservation stacks, which are usually not publicly accessible. They were about the learn about the preservation environment and techniques. By introducing the library’s preservation function to the general public, these special tours promote the importance of materials preservation.

Although PAC North America, hosted at the Library of Congress, USA, could not host the tours and public events that are usually scheduled for Preservation Week this year, the Library held an online series of webinars in its Topics in Preservation series aimed at a professional audience — librarians, archivists and museum staff. Each webinar drew more than 500 attendees from across every U.S. time zone in the U.S. as well as international participants.

Planned Library Engagement in the European Day of Conservation and Restoration

 In the current “stay at home” climate, how is the European Day of Conservation and Restoration being celebrated this year?

 In line with the call to “open your virtual doors to the public”, the E.C.C.O. asked their network to share photos and videos on social media throughout the week to give a glimpse into their workrooms.

We were excited to see E.C.C.O members in libraries sharing examples of the work they are doing to preserve documentary heritage! Have a look at a few examples:


IPCE. Instituto del Patrimonio Cultural de España shared photos of their project restoring the binding of a 16th-century Quran from the collection of Arab-Andalusian manuscripts of the Library of the Instituto Valencia de Don Juan, Madrid.



The National and University Library, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia shared pictures and information detailing their careful restoration of a manuscript from Poljanska valley.



The Chester Beatty museum and library in Dublin shared an online lecture on the condition and treatment of an 18th century Indian manuscript from the library’s collection, including ethical considerations that go into treating original manuscript material.

Watch here [YouTube] 


The Association of Conservators of Antiquities and Works of Art of Higher Education, Greece, shared a glimpse into the Conservation Service of the National Library of Greece and its laboratory hosted at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre.
Watch here [YouTube] 

Thank you to the E.C.C.O. and all the participating institutions for opening your virtual doors and giving us a peak at the work you are doing to preserve and provide access to the world’s documentary cultural heritage!

Get involved! You are welcome to share your library’s conservation and restoration work using the hashtag #EuropeanDayConservationRestoration.

Sustainability, Authenticity, Awareness, Access: Cultural Heritage and Beyond

The activities surrounding this year’s European Day of Conservation-Restoration seek to highlight key themes in the preservation of cultural heritage: sustainability, authenticity, awareness, and access.

These are not only important in preservation, but also resonate with the core tenets of an informed and participatory society. This blog will touch on how applying these themes through cultural heritage can have a greater reach, building on shared values to create connected and informed communities.



The topic of sustainability is far-reaching, and it must be. As we are well aware through the Sustainable Development Goals, incorporating a sustainable framework within all elements of global development is key to securing a brighter future for humanity.

Conservators in archives, museums, libraries and beyond work to ensure that primary sources of our heritage are sustained for future generations of study.

They make it possible for society at large to experience, value and share these elements of their culture.  As the British Council states in their 2018 report, Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth:

When people engage with, learn from, value and promote their cultural heritage, it can contribute to both social and economic development. An inclusive way of working, that engages individuals and communities in their heritage, and supports institutions and nations to effect positive change for all levels of society, can lead to economic growth and better social welfare. Heritage in this way can be a source of sustainability, a way to embed growth in the fabric of society and to celebrate the past in today’s evolving world.

 Finding methods through which all individuals see themselves reflected in society and invited to take part, through media, accessible spaces and participatory policy, is a contributor to the sustainable development of connected communities



 How valuable is the knowledge that our physical cultural heritage is authentic? The Nara Document on Authenticity states:

In a world that is increasingly subject to the forces of globalization and homogenization, and in a world in which the search for cultural identity is sometimes pursued through aggressive nationalism and the suppression of the cultures of minorities, the essential contribution made by the consideration of authenticity in conservation practice is to clarify and illuminate the collective memory of humanity.

Authenticity is about accurate representation, and determining it requires the skills of careful reading and critical thinking. Identifying authenticity in the information and media we consume is among the defining themes of our times.

Teaching how to value and determine authenticity, within cultural heritage and beyond, trains the skills required to think critically about the information we consume.



Participatory societies are informed societies. Individuals and communities can best engage with, learn from, value and promote their cultural heritage when they are invited to do so.

Days like the European Day of Conservation-Restoration help to raise awareness of the work being done in what might otherwise be considered closed-off spaces. Awareness of one another’s cultural values through heritage helps build mutual respect and understanding.

Advocacy is important! Find ways to share the work you’re doing in a way that resonates with people. Tell stories and invite conversation. Awareness-raising of the value of services and spaces which build connected, informed societies helps ensure that they remain available for generations to come.



Closely tied to raising awareness is ensuring that there are mechanisms in place to connect people with their heritage. Inclusive representation of cultures connects communities to their past and to one another.

In broader terms, access to information is a central tenet of democracy.  Suppressing information, in the same way as suppressing culture, limits the right to think, act and express oneself freely.

Access also means building accessible spaces which invite all individuals to take part in culture, governance and civil society – despite language, ability, identity, age and gender. This reaches far beyond access to cultural heritage.

However, connecting people to their heritage can be part of a broader aim to uphold the freedom of expression and access to information that is at the heart of an informed democratic society.


Cultural heritage can allow for greater engagement with the public sphere. Institutions which conserve heritage, provide opportunities to learn about it, and allow conversations to grow around it can be models of an inclusive approach to engagement on a societal level.

How do you build on these values in your area of the profession?