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Meeting of the Board of Regents | November 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009 - 8:30am

sed seal                                                                                                 



signature of Jeff Cannell





Partnership for New York’s Cultural Heritage:  Results of the Statewide Preservation Survey and Next Steps


November 6, 2009


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Issue for Discussion:


Results of the Statewide Preservation Survey and Next Steps


Proposed Handling

The co-directors of the statewide preservation survey project will brief the Regents on the results of the survey and priorities for action.  An opportunity to discuss New York’s preservation plan and strategies for implementation will follow.

Background Information


  • With a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Office of Cultural Education (OCE) recently led a statewide preservation survey of New York’s cultural heritage community to better understand the condition of New York’s collections and the needs of their stewards. Over 800 cultural organizations--museums, libraries, historical societies and archival institutions, responded to the survey.  The results provide essential evidence for designing programs that address New York’s preservation needs and advocate for support that will bring resources to our cultural heritage community.  


New York lays claim to an unparalleled breadth, volume, and density of collecting institutions – museums, libraries, historical societies and archival institutions, which, under charter by the University of the State of New York, steward collections that span four centuries. These are unique, tangible documents and cultural objects as well as a growing body of electronic collections. New York’s cultural collections form an incomparable resource for students of all ages – a resource worthy of the utmost care.

For decades, New York has actively supported the preservation of its cultural resources. The Office of Cultural Education has led this effort as stewards of the collections of the People of New York and as providers of services and funds to cultural institutions statewide.

In 2007, the national Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) launched a program to provide funding to all U.S. States and Territories to determine their most important preservation needs. The State of New York was one of the first recipients of these “Connecting to Collections” statewide preservation planning grants. In partnership with key New York cultural organizations, OCE developed and distributed a web-based survey instrument examining the needs of New York’s collections and their stewards. 

Our findings reveal that the cultural heritage institutions of New York State enjoy some of the widest varieties of external preservation funding sources available in the United States and are taking good advantage of those resources. Our cultural organizations have done a great deal of work to protect and preserve their collections. However, despite all of this work, there are many needs expressed by institutions that are critical to their developing sustainable preservation programs.

The overarching finding is the need for preservation training (particularly in the areas of photograph preservation, disaster planning, preservation advocacy, and grantwriting) and for preservation policy development. While preservation training is widely available in New York, the survey results demonstrate a need for expanded and strengthened offerings.

The survey makes the case for designing a cohesive curriculum focused on all aspects of collections care.  It also demonstrates the needed for targeted efforts in disaster planning; fewer than half of New York repositories have a disaster plan, and this in a state prone to natural and human disasters.  Finally, it exposes the need for a stronger preservation service infrastructure:  more robust connections among the many cultural institutions in New York, regardless of discipline or funding source, that together support stewardship in New York.

These strategic priorities:  preservation education, disaster preparedness, and infrastructure, are the underpinnings of New York’s new preservation plan, currently in development. 


The Regents are fully briefed regarding the needs expressed through the survey so that once we identify strategies and resource requirements to address those needs, they will be able to advocate effectively on behalf of New York’s cultural heritage.