National Standards & Best Practices for U.S. Museums

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Facilities and Risk Management

Standards Regarding Facilities and Risk Management

  • The museum is a good steward of its resources held in the public trust.
  • The museum demonstrates a commitment to providing the public with physical and intellectual access to the museum and its resources.
  • The museum complies with local, state and federal laws, codes and regulations applicable to its facilities, operations and administration.
  • The museum allocates its space and uses its facilities to meet the needs of the collections, audience and staff.
  • The museum has appropriate measures to ensure the safety and security of people, its collections and objects and the facilities it owns or uses.
  • The museum has an effective program for the care and long-term maintenance of its facilities.
  • The museum is clean, well maintained and provides for visitors’ needs.
  • The museum takes appropriate measures to protect itself against potential risk and loss.

Purpose and Importance

Museums care for their resources in trust for the public. It is incumbent upon them to ensure the safety of their staff, visitors and neighbors, maintain their buildings and grounds, and minimize risk to the collections that they preserve for future generations. Conscious, proactive identification of the risks that could potentially harm people and collections, and appropriate allocation of resources to reduce these risks are vital to museum management. 


Simply put, a museum should manage its facilities, e.g., buildings and grounds, in such a manner as to ensure that they are clean, well maintained, safe and accessible.

Risk management is an institution-wide activity encompassing functions as diverse as building and site security, visitor services, integrated pest management, storage and use of hazardous materials, and insurance. A museum should manage risk to ensure: that risks to people (visitors, staff, neighbors) and to collections are accurately identified and assessed; that appropriate methods are employed to avoid, block, mitigate, share and assume or insure against risk; and that resources are appropriately allocated so as to have the greatest effect on reducing risk to people, facilities and collections.

Museums should also have regular, adequate training of staff in implementing an emergency-preparedness plan, including practice or drills; inspections related to facilities and risk (fire, health and safety, etc., as appropriate to the institution’s circumstances); a process for addressing deficiencies identified in these inspections; and a program of health and safety training for staff and volunteers, as appropriate to the institution’s circumstances. Museums are expected to comply with all applicable local, state and federal laws, codes and regulations. 


Museums should have a current, comprehensive emergency/disaster-preparedness plan that is tailored to the institution’s needs and specific circumstances; covers all relevant threats; addresses staff, visitors, structures and collections; includes evacuation plans for people; specifies how to protect, evacuate or recover collections in the event of a disaster; and delegates responsibility for implementation. Museums should also have certificates of inspection related to facilities and risk, as appropriate to their circumstances, when such certificates are provided by the inspecting agency.

Standards for Facilities and Risk Management as Related to Contractors

When museums contract key services related to facilities (e.g., food service, museum store, housekeeping, security), they are expected to require contractors to abide by national standards regarding facilities and risk management. If the museum does not have control over the contract governing this relationship (e.g., a city hires and supervises contractors operating in the museum’s building), the museum should educate contractors on national standards and encourage them to abide by them.

Standards for Museums Housed in Historic Structures

Museums housed in historic structures should balance the preservation needs of the building with actions necessary to mitigate risk to people and to the collections housed in the building. The standards do not dictate specifically how this is achieved; they focus instead on the outcome of appropriate risk management. For example, a historic house museum needs to weigh all relevant factors (mission, resources, impact on the structure, alternative mitigation techniques) when deciding whether to install an automated fire suppression system. In order to be accountable, the institution should be able to explain how its decisions are appropriate to its circumstances.