Case Studies in Sustainable Collection Care Session, Friday May 30th, 2:50pm
Securing The Future of Collections in Zimbabwe’s National Museums through Preventive Conservation: The Case of Zimbabwe Military Museum
Presenter: Davison Chiwara, assistant lecturer Midlands State University, Archaeology, Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies Department at in Gweru, Zimbabwe
This presentation reported on the analysis of collections care and sustainability at the Zimbabwe Military Museum, and presented recommendations to improve policies and practices. Mr. Chiwara’s presentation provided an important example of profound challenges to cultural heritage preservation faced by museums with restricted financial and organizational resources.
The Zimbabwe Military Museum was founded in 1974, at the end of the civil war in then Rhodesia, and five years prior to the official recognition of the nation of Zimbabwe in southern Africa. The museum is located in Gweru, Zimbabwe approximately 165 miles / 265 km southwest of the capital, Harare.
The analysis of storage conditions, environmental controls, and maintenance practices were evaluated using a survey document, interviews, and first hand observation. Mr. Chiwara’s investigation identified poor storage conditions and the lack of functional policies or guidelines for collections care. The museum has no purpose-built storage structures, and the existing artifact storage areas lack humidity, temperature, UV light or pest controls. Examples were presented of an accessioned structure that is currently being used for artifact storage, mold forming on artifacts, water damage, direct sunlight on artifacts, and inadequate housing for archaeological collections.
The museum does not have a collections management policy. A “draft paper” defining a collections policy has been drafted but not accepted by the governing organizing: National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe, creating a situation in which the Military Museum does not have a functioning policy nor is it empowered to create its own.
In conclusion Mr. Chiwara stated that preventative conservation is required to preserve the collection, and posited that preventative conservation must include reducing both short and long-term costs. He argued that investment in collections care now is crucial to achieving both of these goals and he recommended establishing standards for collections care and guidelines for implementing preventative conservation practices.