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Inspiring collections work: Conservation projects in Modes

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On site Conservation project. Courtesy of CMASIn our spotlight article this month we reveal the inspiring conservation work being done by Modes users at Wiltshire Conservation and Museums Advisory Service (CMAS).We talk to Senior Conservator, Beth Baker, to find out how Modes have been instrumental in assisting the team to record the many complex processes of conservation across the broad scope of this fascinating discipline.


How did the Conservation project with Modes come about and what problems needed to be resolved?

“We were recording entry in/ out and treatment information in three or four locations often replicating data. So we wanted to streamline the system to save time, reduce or remove duplication and remove the risk of human error. We wanted to be able to create a bank of information that could be used as a reference tool to inform quotations and treatment plans- that would describe what was used/ how long was required for previous jobs, etc. And to gain useful data about our service including how much work we generate yearly, who we work with and how that is changing”


What was the process for working with Modes on this project?

Using Modes at CMAS. Image courtesy of CMAS.Using Modes at CMAS. Courtesy of CMAS.“We had demonstrations of the available format of the conservation features in Modes; we were given the opportunity to fully explore this and test the features. We then discussed what we wanted to do with the database and identify what was actually feasible. Modes constructed Style Sheets for our Output reports which were then tested. During the development stage, we realised that some of these were no longer necessary, or would be better developed in Excel format alongside Modes due to their variability. Record templates and Grids were created to assist with the introduction of staff to the database and ensure all required fields were completed. Modes provided comprehensive training advice and technical support at various stages and are still an ever-present resource.


Wiltshire Conservation Service Treatment RecordHow have you applied and tested the Conservation features within Modes?  (e.g. With commercial contractors billing, quotes, details, technical data, etc)

“We produce treatment records and use the system for auditing open jobs and recording what items we are holding at any given time.                                                  

Output style sheets were created with Modes to meet our branding and to provide essential information in an accessible format for our clients.

We produce templates for different job types and term lists and have exported object lists into Excel.

We are developing indexes and grids to allow more streamlined interrogation of the data, auditing and quick reference of open jobs.”


What have been the benefits of working with the Modes Conservation features?

“All of our aims have been achieved. We have less duplication in our systems and a good central reference point. As an additional bonus we have a better knowledge of the system when working with the museums.

Flexibility– to be able to add in fields from a good range of options, has been useful due to the variability of the work we undertake.

Drop down termlists remove the risk of entry error from standardised terms or treatments and speed up completion of records.

Attributes provide prompts to refresh or inform infrequent or new users increasing accuracy of the records produced.

Modes on-going support is excellent and they are keen to explore challenges.

The element groups allow client contact data to be accessed immediately and embedded in the record (these are easily updated at a central point).”


What tips would you give to other users looking to embed conservation processes and procedures into their museum work?


painting conservation at CMAS“Think carefully about what you want to get from the programme and discuss these points with Modes. Take their advice and be prepared to accept new approaches even if they are not what you’re used to doing. If something is key to your work then make that clear and they will do their best to find a solution that encompasses or meets that need.

Give yourself time to get to know the program in advance of utilising it officially, and take advantage of the Modes test machines and training.

Use standardised text and terms and fully utilise the attributes and definitions within term-lists to ensure everyone is clear which term is best. Use templates and grids to make more concise record views (these are far less intimidating to those unfamiliar with databases and Modes).”


Examining objects for conservation. Courtesy of CMAS.About the team

The team at CMAS offer a comprehensive range of services for the museums sector and industry. These include everything from funding advice, museum accreditation advice and collection surveys to pest management, environmental monitoring/ reports, to object conservation, X-raying, emergency planning, and advice on hazardous materials.

They also provide outreach and interpretation services, and a wide range of training courses.

The conservation service has been established for over 40 years and has accredited conservators on staff working in both object and paper conservation.

Beth, who studied at Courtauld Institute of Art before completing an MSc in Conservation for Archaeology and Museums at UCL, has previously worked at both the Wallace Collection and the Science Museum in London. Moving to Wiltshire Council Conservation and Museums Advisory Service (CMAS) in 2009 where she now coordinates the team of conservation experts.

The focus for the team is on the sustainability of long-term collections and she works with a broad range of clients from across the heritage sector providing advice, training, preventive and remedial conservation services. Beth’s areas of specialism and particular interests are archaeology and social history, in particular hazardous materials in objects.


To find out more about the projects and support on offer at Wiltshire, visit the website:


This was a bespoke project in partnership between Modes and CMAS. This isn’t available off-the-shelf at this stage but we’d love to know of users interest in a Conservation Application.



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