• Photographs in the collection of Fisk University
  • 264 South 23rd Street  
  • Philadelphia, PA 19103
P 215.545.0613
F 215.735.9313


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CCAHA offers a variety of consultation services. One of its most widely used services is its survey program, initiated to assist institutions with both short-term and long-range preservation planning.

By targeting specific needs, surveys also provide institutions with a valuable tool for strategic planning and grant applications. A typical survey includes one or more days of on-site consultation, followed by the submission of a comprehensive written report and relevant supplementary information. CCAHA offers five types of survey services designed for different preservation needs:

Preservation Needs Assessment

This survey, sometimes referred to as a "general assessment" or "overview survey," is a key first step in developing a preservation plan for institutions. In addition to pinpointing areas of concern, the preservation needs assessment is a valuable tool in fundraising. The Preservation Needs Assessment process encompasses a general evaluation of the institution's preservation needs for their collection(s): environment (temperature, relative humidity, pollution and light), housekeeping, pest control, fire protection, security, and disaster preparedness; collection storage, handling, exhibition, and treatment; and preservation planning. The site visit consists of a review of the site, an examination of the collection(s), and interviews with relevant staff. The written report provides observations, recommendations, and resources to serve as a guide in the development of a comprehensive Preservation Plan for the collection.

Preservation Plan

A Preservation Plan provides a strategic framework for moving forward preservation and collections care initiatives. It should be developed after an institution has already had a Preservation Needs Assessment completed for its collections. The Plan addresses: institutional policies and procedures; collection development policies and priorities; emergency preparedness and response; environmental conditions and monitoring (temperature, relative humidity, light, pests and mold); storage furniture and materials; security; housekeeping; staffing; financial resources; repair and conservation treatment needs; reformatting options (microfilming, photoduplication, photocopying, and digital imaging); and exhibition needs. The Plan will include timetables with benchmarks and assign responsibilities. 

Risk Assessment

A Risk Assessment is a necessity for developing an Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan. The surveyor will complete a one day on-site consultation, analyzing collections management policies and procedures; facilities and building location; environmental conditions; security and fire protection; pest and mold control; and weather and geographic risks. The written Risk Assessment report will provide observations, recommendations, and resources to serve as a guide in the development of an Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan for the collection and the institution. In addition, CCAHA staff will review any subsequent disaster planning documents and make suggestions for the successful implementation of the plan.

Collections Assessment

A Collections Assessment is a closer evaluation of materials in a specific collection or collections, performed by a conservator. It is the next step in assigning conservation priorities and determining an action plan, after an institution has made progress in implementing a Preservation Plan and in making the environmental, policy, and procedure changes recommended by a Preservation Needs Assessment. A professional conservator works closely with the institution to determine the condition of its collection materials. A Collections Assessment site visit consists of a more in-depth analysis of preservation needs of the specified collections and includes an examination of representative objects. Collected data is interpreted in a written report that documents the overall conditions of the collections material. The Collections Assessment assists in integrating the conservation needs of the collection into the overall goals and planning of the institution.

Item-Level Conservation Assessment

An item-level Conservation Assessment provides condition reports of all the materials in a collection or selected items and supplies corresponding conservation treatment estimates. Each institution determines the specific material that should receive this level of attention. The surveying conservator assists in prioritizing conservation treatment for individual items or object groups, and may suggest specific housing and storage solutions to preserve the collections. An item-level Conservation Assessment also helps an institution establish long-range treatment priorities, demonstrating a strong commitment to collections care and providing potential donors with a plan for implementing funded projects. More than one type of survey may be conducted during a single consultation, depending upon the time involved and the institution’s needs.