How to Write a (Basic) Condition Report

Most often conservators, preservation specialists, collection managers, and art couriers are the staff members who write condition reports for collection materials. The practice of writing a condition report is valuable because it collects information on the state of an item at a certain time, which provides a reference for future degradation or damage. Some condition reports are more extensive than others, though it is useful to have a basic condition report on file for items that are frequently circulated.

Many staff members in the heritage field write short reports on the appearance and condition of objects to record in the database. This may be done upon acquisition, prior to exhibition or loan, or when preparing an item for the vault.

What information is needed on the item to write a basic condition report (for a paper item)?

Description

Title

Artist/Author

Printer/Publisher

Date of Execution

Dimensions (cm)

Media (ink, graphite, etc)

Design

Support/Substrate

Formation (smooth or rough)

Colour

Thickness

Surface (matte or glossy)

Watermarks/Stamps

Labels/Inscriptions

 

Condition

Warping

Handling Dents/Creases

Tears

Cuts

Abrasions

Losses

Holes

Fingerprints

Overall Staining

Local Staining

Adhesive

Fading

 

It is also recommended to take photographs of the items at the time that they are assessed, as additional proof of their condition. Photographs should be taken with a DSLR camera and under good lighting. Use a colour target placed next to the item to provide a colour reference that ensures the colouration and brightness of the photograph is acceptable. This colour target can be used to colour correct the digital file using a Photoshop program if needed.

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