Monitoring and Maintenance of Archaeological Sites: the Conference Proceedings

Historic buildings are by their nature subject to the degradation that time and atmospheric agents entail. To limit the damage that degradation causes to heritage artefacts, the first requirement is the periodic or, better, continuous control of their state of conservation. The technologies available for this purpose are constantly evolving.

Cover of the proceedings of the conference “Manutenzione e monitoraggio delle aree archeologiche”(Monitoring and Maintenance of Archaeological Sites) held in Rome on 20th and 21st March, 2019
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NSW Guidelines on Fire Safety in Heritage Buildings

aState of New South Wales (Australia) has published the Guidelines on fire safety in heritage buildings. In the introduction to the guidelines it is stated that fires in buildings are life threatening and often occur without warning. This gives building occupants little time to react – to fight the fire or evacuate the building. Prevention of fires is the most effective method of dealing with this threat and is the responsibility of both building owners and statutory authorities.

Current building regulations are encompassed in the Building Code of Australia (BCA). Most of NSW heritage buildings were built prior to the adoption of these regulations. In fact some of our very old buildings predate the existence of any formal building regulations in Australia. Many heritage buildings do not meet the full requirements of current building regulations and may need upgrading for fire safety.

The Guidelines, published also in the official Cost C17 Action website, can be downloaded also from this post:


White House Compound Fire (USA)

2On December 19, 2007, offices in the historic Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House were damaged by smoke and water from fire hoses.

More than 1,000 people who work in the building were evacuated. The fire broke out on the second floor of the building around about 9:15 a.m. and was under control within a half hour.

The blaze was located in U.S. Vice President’s suite of ceremonial offices. The building was evacuated as a precaution. Firefighters poured water on the blaze, broke windows and moved furniture onto a balcony.

Originally built for the State, War and Navy Departments between 1871 and 1888, the granite, slate and cast iron exterior building was renamed in honor of President Dwight Eisenhower. The smoke appeared to come from an electrical closet on the building’s second floor.

Cutty Sark Fire: vacuum cleaner blamed

1On the morning of 21 May 2007 on the river Thames, in Greenwich (London, UK), the historical ship Cutty Sark, which had been closed and partly dismantled for conservation work, caught fire, and burned for several hours. The damage was extensive, with most of the wooden structure in the centre having been lost.

At least half of the “fabric” (timbers, etc) of the ship had not been on site as it had been removed during the preservation work. The trust was most worried about the state of iron framework to which the fabric was attached.

The fire was reported just before 5am on May 21. At its fiercest, the blaze inside the ship reached temperatures of 1,100 degrees centigrade. The report found that on the night, the security guards who should have been checking it were considering leaving work early and had actually written a false log up to 7am, which stated that ‚ “all is in order”.

When interviewed by police they gave ‚”vague and inconsistent accounts”. They were immediately dismissed. Det Chf Insp Dave Garwood said: ‚”Had they patrolled properly that night we believe the effects of the fire could have been prevented. They did not do the job they were paid to do.”

There were no also sprinklers on the ship, as they had been removed while it was being repaired, and no fire alarm went off. The investigation has found no evidence that the ship was subjected to an arson attack. It is the view of the inquiry that the cause was accidental. Having considered all the information available, it is believed that the most likely cause of the fire was the failure of an industrial vacuum cleaner that had inadvertently been left switched on over the weekend of the 19-20 May 2007.

The detective said that they have contacted the health and safety executive citing concerns about the industrial vacuum cleaner. It emerged that workers had left the vacuum on over night before and that in October 2006 the machine had to be sent back for repair to its manufacturers over safety fears. The construction management company in charge of the site, now faces questions about whether end-of-day checks were carried out correctly.

The fire burned through each of the ship’s three decks, destroying all the building work structures and tools onboard.

The damage added ¬£10 million to the cost of an ongoing conservation project, bringing the total to ¬£35 million. But the damage could have been far worse; much of the ship had already been removed from the site.

Building an Emergency: Museums and Other Cultural Institutions Planning and Management

The experience of the damages that museums and cultural institutions in general have suffered from fire or other sudden events shows that a fundamental role in the mitigation of the damage is linked to the management of the emergency and, therefore, also to its preparation.

The training of the teams and their building are one of the most important aspects to take care of, in order to integrate the safety gaps that, especially in historic buildings, the design fails to completely resolve.

Some of the most significant documents published on this topic are listed below

The Getty Conservation Institute has published on its website the “Building an Emergency Plan”, which is the result of a GCI project that began in 1995 as a proposed series of training workshops to follow the 1992 workshop.

In the process of identifying written material to support these activities, the Authors recognized the lack of a clear, step-by-step guide to developing emergency plans tailored to meet the specific needs of museums and other cultural institutions. With that realization, the efforts have been focused on creating a publication that would fill this need.

the image shows the cover page of the guide
The “Building an Emergency Plan: A Guide for Museums and Other Cultural Institutions”, published by the Getty Conservation Institutions” is ” designed to guide an institution and its staff through the process of developing a team-based emergency preparedness and response program, which results in the creation of an emergency preparedness and response plan”

Among the main topics of the Guide there are:

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Damage Limitation Teams: How to Improve Safety Management in Museums

Management is an important part of fire safety of the built heritage and of cultural resources.  To ensure permanent risk awareness it’s vital to keep documents of premises and collections, to assess artifacts at risk and structures to regularly update documents. Documentation on interventions (training, emergency rescue services‚ near misses, restoration and conservation) and documents of organisation (charts of hierarchy, Management Plans, regulations and controls) are important too.

The execution of exercises of the personnel assigned to limit damage in the event of events that put the historical artifact at risk is essential to deepen the understanding of the operational difficulties that operators would encounter during a real emergency.

Organizing Damage Limitation Teams it’s another part of the strategy. Every structure, in fact, should have the availability of a group of persons who can help rescuers in taking in safe places every object could be damaged by a fire.

Mr Wolfgang Kippes (Schönbrunn Company) explains how fire safety is managed in Wien’s Schönbrunn Castle. The slides that can be downloaded were presented during the 2008 International Conference  in Siena (Italy) Cultural Heritage and Fire Protection Issues: