Following consultation with Collections Trust, The National Archives and others, NCS is pleased to launch Benchmarks 3.0 Conservation Management Planning Tool. The Benchmarks in Collection Care 1.0 and its subsequent re-edited versions 2.0 and 2.1 have been an important tool in helping archives, libraries and museums to assess and prioritise actions that improve the quality of protection and management for heritage collections. It has become a recognised approach to demonstrate good conservation management when applying for Archives Accreditation and Museums Accreditation respectively and now also for demonstrating compliance with BS 4971:2017 (for archival collections). After 20 years of use, it has been comprehensively reviewed and a new version is available here free for all to use, incorporating the wide range of new BS/EN standards covering conservation topics.
NCS has been using Benchmarks with Full member institutions for over 10 years, as a strategic and practical means of working with custodians and developing a rounded understanding of how an institution operates in protecting its collections in storage, on display and in reading rooms. In 2002 an Excel version of the tool was created and NCS offered this to Collections Trust when the latter reviewed Benchmarks 2.0 in 2011. Since that time it has been available on the Collections Trust website. After using it continuously since 2010, and individual Associates having used it for much longer, we were finding it increasingly out of date (most of the text and the structure was from c.1999). There were some weaknesses and confusions in presentation and many of its statements were not widely relevant or no longer helpful to making improvements. We set about reviewing it in detail, with input from consultees, and the new version, Benchmarks 3.0, is much more efficient: at 195 statements instead of the previous 302 it will be quicker to complete. We believe that we have retained the scope and depth required, while now using two levels of practice instead of three. 'Good Practice' level is the core essential mininum that would be expected of any organisation, particularly for Accreditation or other quality assessment purposes. As previously, 'Best Practice' is what organisations should be seeking to achieve over time, where appropriate.
This new Benchmarks tool is available freely for all to use and will be open for feedback for 6 months, during which time those who use it are encouraged to send in comments, suggestions, corrections etc. We especially welcome comments about its usefulness in contributing to Accreditation. We will take that feedback and review the process again after this initial period ends and then schedule another full review after a further three years, seeking input from all who want to contribute. It continues to use the 'Met', 'Partly Met', and 'Not Met' categories for scoring, introduced in the original Excel version, to add context to the attainment of each benchmark statement, and is available here in both Excel and PDF. In the Excel version, your scoring is automatically recorded into a chart format in the Summary tabs, for a quick visual representation and for you to show progress over time. As previously, if a statement is not relevant for your type of collection, you can leave the score blank and it will not negatively impact your overall score. The PDF has been made simply to provide a version that those not used to using Excel may find helpful for printing on paper, but of course the Excel version can also be printed out once your printer layout settings have been adjusted to suit your needs. Please take a moment to read through the Introduction worksheet before starting to use it.
We hope you will find this new version helpful in your regular planning and assessment and look forward to feedback on the content and format, positive or negative. Send comments if you have them to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line 'Benchmarks Feedback'.