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The studio conducts surveys of single collections, large de-centralized collections, or individual objects.

Collection-level survey: The goal with this type of survey is to identify the overall state of preservation for an entire collection and provide priorities for future work. Usually such surveys assess the storage environment (mainly temperature and relative humidity), storage, display and handling techniques, as well as disaster preparedness and pest management plans. Usually a collection-level survey can be performed by the studio in two to three days with another week required to research and write a final report.

Item-level surveys: This type of survey demands much more of a conservator’s time. The purpose of an item-level survey is to examine individual objects within a collection. The main goal of this type of survey is to identify the materials and methods used to construct the art and artifacts, as well as the condition of an object, and if conservation treatment is required.

Large, decentralized collections: Paul Messier, in collaboration with the Harvard University Libraries and the Library of Congress, has developed a unique survey model designed to assess the overall preservation condition of multiple photograph repositories across large institutions. This survey methodology is currently being applied at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, Yale University, the New York Public Library and is being tested by the Smithsonian Institution. Except for the Smithsonian, these projects were funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The survey model reflects the fact that photograph collections are typically spread across a large institution though preservation responsibilities for these collections usually falls to a single, centralized, conservation department.

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