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Elisabet Ney Museum

Needs Assessment

Elana Barton, Ashleigh Knopp
and Anna Robinson

November 4, 2013
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Table of Contents
Executive Summary ......................................................................................................................... 3
Museum Background ...................................................................................................................... 4
Building Concerns ........................................................................................................................... 5
Environmental Conditions .............................................................................................................. 6
Pest Management ........................................................................................................................... 7
Exhibits ............................................................................................................................................ 7
Collection ........................................................................................................................................ 8
Reformatting ................................................................................................................................. 12
Staff and User Education .............................................................................................................. 12
Emergency Planning ...................................................................................................................... 14
Security ......................................................................................................................................... 14
Appendix I. Needs Assessment Questionnaire ............................................................................. 16
Appendix II. Elisabet Ney Museum Floor Plan .............................................................................. 20
Bibliography .................................................................................................................................. 22


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Executive Summary
The Elisabet Ney Museum is located at the site of Formosa, Neys final studio, in the Hyde Park
neighborhood in Austin, Texas. It houses many of her famous sculptures, including depictions of
famous Texans and contemporary European elite, as well as her personal effects. The studio
was one of the original structures in Munroe Martin Shipes cultivation of Hyde Park as Austins
first suburb in the late 19th century. As a historic building, there are many concerns for
conservation and safety that cannot be fully addressed without compromising the historical
value.
The Ney collection consists of photographs and papers, household items and tools, and dozens
of books, as well as over seventy art pieces, specifically statues and busts, which are at the
heart of the collection. The overall condition of the collection is of concern due to the slightly
high relative humidity that can harm the plaster statues and other collection materials. Space is
limited in the museum with a very small, crowded collection room in the basement is used as
the main storage for non-exhibited works. The file cabinet holding photos and archives is at
capacity and in need of support and protection. Conservation is difficult due 70 to 80% of the
museums art objects being owned by the University of Texas Harry Ransom Center and limited
experience or resources at the museum. Several items in the collection are not cataloged
and/or need further research to document ownership and provenance.
The museum staff members are talented, but limited by their many responsibilities. Two of the
three employees are recent hires. Their duties include simultaneously maintaining museum
operations in addition to implementing the Restoration Plan and conducting community
outreach. Staff is regularly engaged in visitor services, which could be delegated to volunteers
and part-time staff. The museum staff is dedicated to providing a personal, engaging
experience for visitors, and offers a tour to each person who enters the museum. Tours are
critical for user education as well as securing the exhibition, which is largely exposed.
Sculptures are vulnerable to touching and movement, and educational signage has been largely
removed to make a natural setting for the artwork.
The museum employs emergency policies prescribed by Austin City Parks and Recreation. The
current policy has been in place for several years and is not frequently reviewed by staff. A new
policy is currently in development and will be published in the next year. Museum security is
composed of alarms on operating doors and obstructions on other openings. Some barriers are
present in exhibition rooms to discourage touching and a staff member observes the main
exhibit space when visitors are present.
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Recommendations:
Creation of plan/timeline for future ideas
Seal windows to prevent future leaks
Update dehumidification and HVAC system
Replace lights with LED lights
Incorporate written information into main exhibit for user education
Engage visitors more using activities or interactive exhibits
Implement temporary exhibits more frequently
Utilize Gaylord supplies and continue records organization and research
Hire more staff, especially a door attendant
Improve training for emergency procedures and protocols

All photographs were taken by Elana Barton and Anna Robinson with the permission from the
Elisabet Ney Museum. The Floor Plan in this report was created by Elana Barton and Anna
Robinson.


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Museum Background
The Elisabet Ney Museum was originally the studio of 19th century German artist Elisabet Ney
famous for her lifelike sculptures of legendary Texans like Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston.
After her death in 1907, the studio became a museum to preserve her collection of statues that
ranges from her time in Europe until 1892 when she moved to Texas. The museum is listed on
the National Register of Historic Places, placing historical value on the building and land as well
as its impressive artistic collection.
1

The Ney Museums typical visitors are of families, students, and researchers, as well as school
and retirement group tours. Weekends are the busiest for the museum, which also offers
educational programs, special events, and lectures. The museum underwent a restoration last
Spring that included replacing the roof and altering the landscape. Plans for future renovation
include replacing windows, restoring the dam, and moving storage from the collections room.
Building Concerns
The studio was built in 1892 and is constructed out of limestone. The limestone creates dust
and as a porous material, tends to absorb water from the surrounding landscape. The walls
were measured to contain up to 50% water in 2007 before a trench was created around the
exterior perimeter of the building to keep moisture away from them. The roof is completely
flat, but has been redone in the past year to create a basin and drainage system in order to
prevent damage and leaking in the event of rainwater gathering. There have been some known
leaks, including issues with upper-floor windows leaking rainwater. These windows are not
sealed. There was also a recent leak into the European Room, though the suspected cause is
rainwater seepage into the HVAC system. No issues have been observed with basement or
foundation leaks into the basement of the building. The basement, which is where the
collection storage area is located, is under both the 10-year and 100-year projected flood plain.
There are many observable signs of settling within the museum, as it is housed in a historical
building. There are cracks in the walls, and separation at the joints of some of the windows with
the building. There is some plaster missing from parts of the walls.
A restoration plan for the building and surrounding landscape was put together in 2007 by Volz
& Associates, Inc, which is a company that specializes in the restoration and reuse of historic
buildings. The current stage of renovation is focused on the landscape, and is intended to bring
back the landscape of Neys time in the studio. The only plants brushing up against the building
are banana plants, which are non-abrasive to the exterior. However, these plants may hold

1
Elisabet Ney Museum, City of Austin, http://austintexas.gov/department/elisabet-ney-museum.
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moisture close to the building walls, and may house potentially invasive pests. There is a
horticulturalist working on the landscape restoration, who makes weekly visits to the site.
Recommendations
Museum staff should assess potential leaks caused by rainwater seepage into HVAC system and
repair them as resources allow. All windows should be sealed to prevent future leaks and the
collection should be moved into storage out of areas within the flood plain.
Environmental Conditions
There is currently no scheduled maintenance to be performed on the buildings HVAC
system, parts of which have been replaced in the past year. The Ney Museum has had
Hoboware in place since January in order to track the temperature and humidity in the
different areas of the building. There is a data logger in the European room, one in the Texas
room, one in the upstairs exhibit room, and one in the basement, in the collections storage
room.
2
They intend to track this information for a full year to assess their needs in each season.
There is a thermostat in each room, which is set to keep the building between 68 and 72
degrees Fahrenheit. The average temperature since the end of January has been between
68.21 and 70.26 degrees, with the basement collections room being the coolest and the
upstairs being the warmest. The average relative humidity was between 52.88 and 58.45, with
the basement and upstairs having the highest humidity. There is no system in place for
dehumidification or humidity control currently.
In terms of light exposure, the building was built with the windows in the main rooms
facing north to avoid direct sunlight, as per Elisabet Neys original instructions. There are no
books stored near windows and items on display receive very minimal direct sunlight. Some
form of solar protection may be used on windows in the near future. Halogen incandescent
bulbs are used throughout a majority of the museum where additional light is needed, though
the main display rooms tend to be naturally well lit. It was discussed that wire mesh may be
used in the future to lower the UV emissions of the bulbs. There are fire and heat detectors in
all rooms of the building.
Recommendations
The museum would benefit from installation of a dehumidification system and ensure humidity


2
See Appendix II for floor plans.
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controls are in place. Replacement of all current lighting with LED lighting would improve
longevity of the collection and exhibits.
Pest Management
The Ney Museum currently has no known issues with pests. They enlist the services of a
monthly pest service, which are limited in nature. According to museum staff, they typically ask
if any noticeable pest problems have arisen and treat anything of concern, rather than
thoroughly checking the property for signs of insect infestation. The newly hired Collections
Manager, who has a background in conservation and preservation environments and their pest
control, intends to seek out a more appropriate service. There is evidence in both the storage
and exhibition areas of the building of spiders and spider webs, indicating there may be other
bugs or pests in these areas. There is no known or observed mold problem within the building.
The exterior of the building currently is free of mold or algae growth, which was removed in
concurrence with the renovations that took place over the last year. There is a potential for
possible mold growth due to the inability to regulate the humidity in the building.
There is no currently scheduled plan for housekeeping, though a thorough dusting of exhibit
items was performed in June. Limestone dust can be a problem within the building, creating a
need for more thorough housekeeping. There is the intention to create a plan for a scheduled
heavy cleaning of all rooms and items every three months.
Recommendations
It is recommended staff hire a more comprehensive pest control service to ensure a clean,
stable environment for the museum. They should also create a cleaning schedule for both
weekly housekeeping and heavy cleaning every three months. A plan for comprehensive
monitoring for potential mold growth is also necessary.
Exhibits
The museum exhibits are separated into four rooms on the first and second floors of the
building.
3
The largest room on the first floor, the European Room, is where visitors enter and
contains thirty statutes created by Ney prior to 1892. The Texas Room, also on the first floor,
has twenty-five statues of Neys work of Famous Texans dating from 1982 to 1906. The Texas
and European rooms contain no signage, requiring visitors to rely on a pamphlet or docent for
descriptions for each statue, which are marked numerically. The smallest room on the first

3
See Appendix II for floor plans.
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floor, holds temporary exhibits and currently houses Go to Texas, showing Austin in large
format photographs from 1840 to 1911. The fourth room, called the Household Room, is on the
second floor, containing some of Neys furniture and textiles, as well as information and photos
of her husband and houses and studios in Texas. There is a fifth room in the tower, but stair
access is tight and a small number of people go up to view the few exhibit signage there. The
exhibits are mostly permanent with little exchange of art and other objects because many items
cannot be moved, especially in the European and Texas rooms with their large sculptures. Even
the temporary exhibits are unable to
change more than every few years because
of limited staff, although more temporary
exhibit creation is planned.
Recommendations
While the large amount of art pieces on
the first floor makes signage for each
difficult and result in a cluttered look to
the exhibits, the lack of signage in the
museum is can be limiting for visitors. The
pamphlet given to visitors is useful, but the
persons name the statue or bust represent
would help orient visitors, especially when
moving into different rooms. In addition, a form of interactive activity or exhibit would make
the museum more memorable, especially for younger audiences. Something like a Make Your
Own Sculpture exercise may be too ambitious for the Ney Museum at the moment, but
perhaps a drawing activity or scavenger hunt can be implemented. Finally, the temporary
exhibit space is an opportunity for the museum to bring in new activities and expansion of
Elisabet Neys story and should be taken advantage of as soon as staff and resources permit.
Collection
Including with the items displayed in the exhibits, the collection consists of approximately:
400 photos
500-800 archival documents, including letters
More than 70 art pieces, including plaster & marble statues and oil paintings
Several personal items, including 20 textiles, 100 household and furniture items, as well
as pedestals, art tools, casts and sketches/studies, and a clay bin
Furniture on the second floor is worn and slightly
damaged.
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Dozens of books, most of which are not historically relevant to the museum
Many of the photos and documents are
copies and are therefore not artifacts, but
they contain historical interest. The items
in the exhibits, especially the statues, are
clean and well cared for, having been
recently dusted after last years
renovations. Several furniture pieces on
the second floor appeared worn and
slightly damaged, but this may reflect
their age more than negligence or misuse.
70 to 80% of art in the Ney Museum
belongs to the University of Texas Harry
Ransom Center and although these items
are owned by the HRC, they are to legally remain in Elisabet Neys studio. The museum has also
retained several art pieces for most of their existence, including the Prometheus statue that has
remained at the Ney for almost 115 years. Other items
in the collection, however, have limited documentation
or research and while most items are cataloged, there
remain gaps in regards to ownership. Museum staff is
fully aware of the problem and has stated that research
into these items is a priority.
The museum, a part of the Austin Parks and Recreation
Department, has the responsibility to preserve and care
for the collection, as well as share it with the public. The
largest and most notable items are the statues Elisabet
Ney created, many of which are marble or plaster, and
luckily remain inside the building at all times. Due to
this, the marble statues require little active
preservation and are primarily only need dusting. The
plaster casts, however, require more effort as high
relative humidity of the environment can harm the work
because the plaster itself is water-soluble.
4
Dust

4
Caring for Plaster, Victoria and Albert Museum, http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/c/caring-for-plaster/.
The collection room holds several of Neys busts, as
well as furniture and archival materials.
The collection room also holds two
large metal cabinets.
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gathered on the plaster busts can be corrosive and can give way to mold under humid
conditions.
5
The pedestals several busts are on, most of which were originally Neys, are
similarly sensitive to high, low, or changing humidity. In December 2012, the European Room
received a leak, increasing the humidity in the
room. A conservator from the HRC inspected a
hollow plaster bust in the room and discovered
that it had absorbed a large amount of moisture.
While it was decided the bust was not in need of
immediate care, humidity and water damage is of
concern at the museum, especially because it
does not currently have a reliable
dehumidification system.
Space is limited at the Ney Museum and the
collection not on exhibition is stored to the
basement, which also houses the staffs office,
small kitchen area, and storage. Various furniture
pieces are located in the basement that cannot fit
elsewhere and on which the museums books
are stacked. The small room called the Collection
Room holds several busts, studies, framed
artwork, furniture, two large cabinets for
artifacts, and a metal four-shelf unit with multiple
archival boxes containing artifacts. The next room
is used for storage and contains old or broken
projectors, as well as media like slides, VHS, and
cassette tapes. In addition, this room has Neys
large clay bin with dried clay and old visitor logs, in addition to the museums vertical HVAC unit
installed in 2005. Museum staff plans to create an office in a building on the property currently
used for storage, relieving some of the main buildings storage problems.
The condition of the photos and archives, located in the basement with the office, is another
area of concern. These items are currently in a large four- drawer file cabinet with little support
except other documents. Several folders the items are organized in are not the acid-free


5
Aurelia Badde, Dusts on Busts, Northumbria University, http://www.klassik-stiftung.de/uploads/
tx_lombkswdigitaldocs/Badde_Dusts_on_Busts.pdf.
Photos and archival materials are stored in a
metal filing cabinet and are in need of more
structure and stability.
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archival standard and one drawer contains bowed folders lying on top of each other. Museum
staff plans to remedy this by placing the documents in archival sleeves soon. The museums
books, few of whom are cataloged, are stacked on top of each other in the entryway to the
basement. Most of these books are not archival and are low priority to the museum, although
plans to catalog them are in place.
Quick conservation of the items owned by
the HRC is limited because the museum
must get permission prior any conservation
efforts, treatments or hanging, as seen
with the European Room leak last year.
Despite this difficulty, a colleague with
many years of conservation experience
who works at the OHenry, Susanna
Dickinson, and Austin Fire Department
Museums is able to assist in many
conservation and preservation issues. The
museum has recently taken on a new
collections manager with experience in
basic conservation and care of archival
objects and has recently received archival supplies from Gaylord, a library and archives supply
company. Acid-free and low pH folders, boxes, and tissue paper will be used for updating the
archival materials storage. Other items like gloves, Polyethylene foam and envelopes, cleaners,
cotton tape, Polyester film, and archival adhesives will aid in the museums care of the
collection and exhibits.
Recommendations
Museum staff should utilize these Gaylord archive supplies, especially for the photos and
archives. The items from Gaylord are well thought out, but in addition, it may be beneficial for
the staff to order flip-top document cases for added support of the photos and archival
materials. These boxes may fit in the file cabinet the photos and documents already inhabit and
therefore would not take up any extra space. If this is carried out, these materials will be
supported, protected, and have a longer life.
Similarly, the books in the museum should be placed on proper shelving and made to stand
upright with support. It would be advantageous for staff to continue to carry out the research
Books are stored in the basement and stacked on top
of each other.
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and organization needed to catalog and update their documentation, especially if they intend
to digitize their records. Finally, the museum should continue their interaction with HRC staff in
the conservation of Neys art, establishing formalized standards for its care.
Reformatting
Museum staff has employed an intern in the recent past to digitize photographs and plan to
continue the project. They also plan to scan collection records in order to facilitate their
organization and upload them into their PastPerfect database, which can then be used by
researchers. The audio and VHS tapes may also be digitized in the future, although this is a low
priority. These reformatting steps will broaden the publics access to the museums collection
and is therefore recommended as staff and resources permit.
Staff and User Education
Staff members
As a long-standing monument of Texas history and associated with various art institutions, the
Elisabet Ney Museum has its own complex history of staff and curator changes. Currently, three
staff members share responsibilities for the collection. The Collections Manager officially began
his work in October 2013 and will carry the greatest responsibility for upkeep and maintenance.
The Manager for Educational Outreach has the most comprehensive knowledge of the
collections as the longest-serving staff member, with more than six years experience in various
roles. The Site Manager and Head Curator is relatively new to the museum, having started in
January 2013, and is largely occupied with administrative duties and maintaining relationships
with other city departments and community partners.
All staff members have extensive museum experience supporting their roles and
responsibilities. The Collections Manager has dedicated his initial weeks to surveying building
and exhibition space concerns. He accompanies contractors to examine their workspace and
potential issues. In cleaning the exhibit spaces, he inspects for building and collection concerns.
He has already identified key issues that require additional experience for which they will
consult contractors. One such issue is maintenance of the climate control system, which is a re-
occurring problem and necessitates frequent and immediate attention.
Other city employees associated with the museum include a horticulturist and events
coordinator. The horticulturist maintains the landscape on museum property, however neither
have direct contact with the collection. Two volunteers from the School of Information are
working with the paper and photograph archives to sort and digitize the collection and add the
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catalog with digital surrogates into PastPerfect. Plans include hiring a part-time Museum
Attendant and arranging a volunteer docent program.
The staff maintains excellent relations with partner agencies, such as other museums and
cultural centers in Austin and the Harry Ransom Center. Partner museums in the Austin Parks
and Recreation Department offer support and frequent conservation training from associated
museums. Harry Ransom Center conservators are responsible for all decisions affecting marble
sculptures and are consulted at any sign of threat.
User Education
At least one staff member monitors the main floor at any given time, and museum policy is to
offer a tour to every visitor. Pamphlets bear biographical information about sculptures on
display, but otherwise very little written information is available on the main floor. Each tour in
the sculpture areas is tailored for the present group; however, user interaction with the
collection is rarely addressed. Tours do not tend to include the upstairs. The upstairs exhibit
space is largely exposed. Signs bear biographical information on the building and Elisabet Ney,
but the only restraint to visitors from handling objects are barriers on chairs and objects
elevated above use. Occasionally, visitors are welcomed to tour the downstairs workspace and
collections room with staff supervision. Visiting researchers who wish to handle collections or
the archive do so under supervision are provided gloves. The paper and photography in the
archive are mostly 20th century paper and, with exception of news-clippings, are sturdy for
casual handling. Researchers visit only occasionally, and the current digitization project will
relieve much of the impact on archival materials.
Recommendations
A member of the staff should be given training in the mechanics of environmental monitoring
and the climate control conditions to make immediate assessments on fluctuations, as well as
carry out minor maintenance on equipment.
Additional personnel are needed. If the Attendant position is not filled, it will be necessary to
expedite recruitment for volunteer docents to monitor the exhibits during high traffic hours.
Volunteers can be found in local historical associations as well as students in art, history, and
museum studies.
Presenting information on preservation issues in the exhibition with discrete signage or
information in pamphlet would provide greater context to visitors as well as discourage them
from potentially threatening behavior.
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Emergency Planning
The Museum employs policies determined by Austin City Parks and Recreation. A committee of
representatives examines each cultural heritage site to determine best practices in system
policies. The current policy has been in place for more than ten years and is not closely
examined by staff. A new emergency policy is due to be published in the next year.
Smoke detectors are located throughout the building, and fire extinguishers are placed on each
floor except the tower room. The fire extinguishers are fully charged, however they and the
exits are not clearly marked for use in emergencies. Fire alarms are integrated into the security
system and alert the Fire Department, which is in convenient proximity to the museum. There
are no alarms for water intrusion. The museum has a ready supply of towels and other tools for
leaks, but may not be able to react quickly to a flood situation.
In the event that collection items belonging to Harry Ransom Center are endangered, museum
staff addresses relevant structural concerns and notify HRC to examine items for further
considerations or actions.
Recommendations
Staff should examine the emergency policy and select portions critical to the museums
collections and environmental surrounding. These selections should be posted prominently in
the work area.
Emergency exits must be clearly indicated for all sections of the building. Staff must be aware of
emergency procedures and use of response tools, and should run drills for evacuating the
building.
Finally, water sensors should be placed in areas traditionally endangered by leaks.
Security
Alarms are secured on front and basement doors that sound at each opening. If no staff
member is in the exhibition area at time of an upstairs entrance, one will leave the workspace
to attend to incoming visitors. Although tours are offered, visitors are allowed to move through
exhibit areas unaccompanied and largely unobserved, and neither guided tours nor observation
extend to upstairs collections. Sculptures are vulnerable to touch, including busts with narrow
bases and support. Ropes offer a psychological obstacle to groups of busts, however most
sculptures are within range of accidental movement. Among the personal effects are furniture
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and tools. Tools are secured in a glass case and furniture is vulnerable to touch but secured
against use.
Other doors and windows are secured closed, and an alarm system alerts security upon
unauthorized entry. Signs warning against trespassing are displayed on the building and at
property entrance with posted times. The surrounding property cannot be effectively secured
without significant loss of historical appearance.
The museum has acquired a grant with provisions to update security. Funds will purchase
newer fire and security alarms, and a visual security system.
Recommendations
The visual security system should extend to the upstairs exhibit and be positioned to view the
area surrounding the most vulnerable items. Monitors should be viewable in the workspace as
well as in view of the door attendant.
Repositioning barriers around sculptures would reduce their vulnerability to both incidental and
deliberate touch.
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Appendix I
Elisabet Ney Museum
Needs Assessment Questionnaire
6

Museum Staff
Director/Site Manager
Name: Title:
Hours per week:
Responsibilities:



Additional staff:
Name: Title:
Hours per week:
Responsibilities:



Additional staff:
Name: Title:
Hours per week:
Responsibilities:
Additional staff:

6
Adapted from the Heritage Preservations 2012 Conservation Assessment Program Guidelines and Application
booklet.

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Name: Title:
Hours per week:
Responsibilities:

Goals
What goals does the museum have for this assessment? (Check all that apply, and elaborate if
there are areas of special concern.)
Develop a long-range preservation/conservation plan for collections
Improve collections care
Increase staff awareness of collections preservation concerns
Improve the preservation/conservation of the building
Improve environmental conditions
Use as a tool to obtain funding for collections care
Other:

Collections Information
Who owns the collections?
Approximately what percentage of your collections is owned by the institution? _________%
Approximately what percentage of the collection is on exhibition? __________%
Approximately how many items of the collection are:
archives?
photographs?
textiles?
furniture?
other (please explain)
Has the institution ever engaged a consultant to survey all or part of the collections?
yes no If yes, approximately when? ___________
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Has the institution ever engaged a consultant to survey all or part of the building?
yes no If yes, approximately when? ___________
Site area: less than 1 acre 1-5 acres 6-10 acres more than 10 acres
How many buildings does the institution occupy? ____________________________________
Approximately what percentage of the institutions collection is inventoried? __________%
Approximately what percentage of the institutions collection is cataloged? __________%
Is there a collections management manual? yes no

Facilities Information
A historic structures assessor will be assigned if structures are more than 50 years old.
Building name: _____________________________________________________
Owner: _______________________________________________
Structure size: < 10,000 sq. ft. 10,000 - 25,000 sq. ft. 25,001 - 50,000 sq. ft.
50,001 - 100,000 sq. ft. > 100,000 sq. ft.
What is the date of the last building renovation? ____________________________________
Is there any information or documentation about the renovation? yes no
If yes, please attach or make available.
Describe what was done:


Is the building interpreted as historic? yes no


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Other:
Is there a disaster preparedness plan? yes no
If yes, when was it last updated:
Is there a floor plan available? yes no
If yes, please attach or make available.
Is there a cleaning schedule implemented in the institution? yes no
If yes, what does it entail?

How often are the displays and collection storage areas cleaned?
Is there pest prevention? yes no
Is there mold prevention? yes no





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Appendix II
Elisabet Ney Museum Floor Plan
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Bibliography
Caring for Plaster. Victoria and Albert Museum. http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/c/
caring-for-plaster/.
Elisabet Ney Museum. City of Austin. http://austintexas.gov/department/elisabet-ney-
museum.
2012 Conservation Assessment Program Guidelines and Application. Heritage Preservation,
October 3, 2011. http://www.heritagepreservation.org/cap/docs/CAPapp2012_
Sample.pdf