Managing Risks in Historic Properties and Places of Worship

Many historic houses and collections are in use and exposed to risks which are often higher than those for collections housed in museums. You can prepare policies and procedures that define your site specific requirements for the successful management of high risk activities. Preventive conservators- restorers experienced in these areas can assist you in the preparation of policies and procedures.

The following information provides guidance in managing risks associated with:

Also see the latest publication by English Heritage:

Historic House Collections: Drawing Up a Collections Management Plan.


Filming in Historic Properties

Filming can be a good source of income for those who own and run historic properties. However, it is essential that the associated risks are managed effectively in order to avoid damage to the collections or historic surfaces. The priority for film companies will be getting the results they need for the film; the priority for those responsible for the care of collections in historic houses must be the minimisation and control of risks.

See:  Filming in Historic Houses: Guidance


Managing Hospitality Events

It is vital that hospitality events are managed effectively in order to ensure that damage to collections and the historic fabric of the building are kept to a minimum.

Please refer to:


Emergency Planning for Historic Properties

Owners and managers of historic houses with collections are strongly advised to consider actions they would need to take in the event of an emergency and prepare a plan detailing these actions. The better prepared you are to act in the event of an emergency the greater that chance that damage to collections will be minimised.
Broadly in order to prepare a plan the following key stages are recommended:

  • Identify the principal risks affecting your specific site and collections and actions to take in the event of emergencies arising from these risks.
  • Identify the items from the collection which are the highest priority to protect or save.
  • Prepare site plans and floor plans, ideally in consultation with your local fire and rescue service.
  • Establish a system for calling out staff in the event of an emergency and identify actions/roles in the event of an emergency.
  • Purchase basic salvage equipment and materials and store on site to facilitate a rapid response. Contact details for suppliers to be kept in the plan.
  • List contact details within the plan for contractors and conservators who would be willing to respond.
  • Train staff in the content and use of the plan.

See: Emergency Planning for Historic Houses: Guidelines


Managing Risks during Building Works in Historic Properties

Collections and historic surfaces such as floors, painted surfaces, doors and panelling can all be at risk of damage during building works such as upgrading old and deteriorating electrical wiring systems, installation of new security systems, internal and external redecoration and structural repairs such as roofing projects. It is vital that these events are managed in such a way that collections and historic surfaces and structures are not damaged. The better an event is planned for the less risk there is of damage occurring.

It is important to identify the following: exactly what the works will be; the collections and areas that will be affected, remembering for example that access may be required from a room above or below; the contractors main routes; areas and surfaces that will require protection; collections that need to be moved or protected; materials that may be required to protect collections or surfaces or that may be needed to supplement materials in the emergency store; sections of the emergency plan that will require temporary revisions; safe working practices for contractors; length of time required for cleaning areas and commissioning equipment before collections are re-instated and, where appropriate,  opportunities for explaining the work to the public and considering ways to maintain a high level of interest in the site, especially if it is to be closed for several months or longer.

See: Managing Risks during Building Works in Historic Houses: Guidance


The Environment and Insect Pests in Historic Houses

Environmental conditions in historic houses are not always commensurate with ideal conditions for the long term survival of collections. Light levels may be high at south facing windows in particular with sunlight frequently streaming in through windows. Historic houses are generally quite cold ;  central heating may have been installed and may now be contributing to the deterioration of items such as furniture or lacquer work.

Insect pests such as clothes moths and a number of species of carpet beetle are on the increase with more reproductive cycles seen within a year with changes in climate and generally warmer winters. It is important to prevent insect pest activity and deal with it as quickly as possible when it appears.

See: The Environment and Insect Pests in Historic Houses: Guidelines