ABTEM is pleased to announce the launch of the biggest project in its history, the updating of the old MGC Standards in the Care of Larger & Working Objects.

There have been several publications available to those looking after larger and working objects within the museum sector, all now out-of-print. The Museums & Galleries Commission ‘Standards in the Museum Care of Larger & Working Objects was “an authoritative source of care standards to which all museums should aspire” (MGC Standard 4 published in 1994). This was followed in 1997 by ‘Larger & Working Objects: A guide to their preservation and care’ (Stephen Ball, MGC) and in 2009 the Collections Trust published ‘Larger & Working Objects: a guide to standards in their preservation and care’.

Although now out-of-date and not very user friendly, these publications remain important sources of information for curators, advisers, and volunteers and there has been for some while a call to update or republish them.

While there was clearly demand, ABTEM were keen to see how much demand there was and in March 2015, with Arts Council England Subject Specialist Network (SSN) funding, ABTEM commissioned consultant Rob Shorland – Ball to carry out a Scoping Study exploring the need and demand for updated guidelines for the care, interpretation and operation of items in transport and engineering collections in public-funded, independent charitable and volunteer-run organisations.

In the course of the study, as well as discussing possible content Rob also carried out consultation with a range of groups, museums and individuals and confirmed that there was still a need for guidelines informed by best practice. With a positive response In July 2016, following an application to the Museum Resilience Fund, ABTEM was successful in obtaining £47,465 from Arts Council in 2016 Resilience grant programme to update and republish the standards.

In 2017 ABTEM appointed the International Railway Heritage Consultancy (IRHC) to work with them to produce new guidelines for museums and private collectors with larger and working objects. Working with a steering group of ABTEM members, IRHC also undertook consultation with other individuals and organisations to produce the final document.

ABTEM are very grateful to Arts Council England for their generous support of this project; it is the biggest and most exciting initiative undertaken by the network since its inception in 1962 and is intended to be a ‘living document’ that will be updated on a regular basis.


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