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Choosing a Risk Assessment Tool for Collections Care

Discussions about using risk management tools in collections care often revolve around choices and the implementation of risk assessment methodologies. With the number of risk tools available, deciding which one to use can be overwhelming. This blog aims to provide a simple guide on how to effectively choose the right risk assessment tool for collections care.

Here are the steps you can take when considering which risk methodology to employ:

Assess your requirements. Take the time to identify your requirements and priorities. Consider factors such as the size and complexity of your heritage site, the type of risks you need to assess, the available resources, and the level of expertise within your team. This initial assessment will help you narrow down the list of potential tools.

Research available tools. Explore the various risk assessment tools available for assessing risks to collections. Consider their functionality, user-friendliness, and the level of expert support you might need. Look for risk tools that have been widely used and have positive reviews within the heritage community.

Evaluate Methodologies. Understand the risk assessment methodologies and frameworks employed by different tools. Some popular approaches include quantitative methods (e.g., probabilistic risk assessment) or qualitative methods (e.g., expert judgment-based assessments). Consider the strengths and limitations of each methodology and select one that aligns with your objectives and available resources.

Seek recommendations and expert advice. Utilise your professional network and seek recommendations from colleagues, experts, or heritage organisations that have experience with risk assessment. They can provide invaluable insights and suggest tools that have proven effective in similar contexts. Expert advice can help you make an informed decision and avoid potential pitfalls.

By following these steps, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your organisation's objectives and supports effective risk assessment for collections.

Regarding the choice between simple and more complex risk assessment tools for collections, these are some of the considerations that need to be taken into account. While complex methodologies can provide detailed insights, simpler and more practical approaches can still provide valuable results in assessing risks effectively. More complex risk assessment methodologies such as the ABC methodology (developed by the Canadian Conservation Institute and ICROOM) and the CPRAM (Cultural Property Risk Analysis Method) can provide an in-depth analysis of risks, and give specific insights into care for collections, or even allow a cost-benefit analysis of mitigation strategies. However, these may not always be necessary or practical for assessing risks for collections. Depending on the context and resources available, there are alternative approaches that can provide good results. Here are some more simple tools that can be employed:

1. Qualitative Risk Assessment. This approach focuses on identifying and evaluating risks based on their potential impact and likelihood, using qualitative descriptors. It involves expert judgment, stakeholder input, and discussions to assess risks. While it may not provide quantitative data, it can still offer valuable insights.

2. Scenario-Based Risk Analysis. This approach involves developing hypothetical scenarios and assessing the risks associated with each scenario. By considering possible events and their consequences, it helps in understanding the vulnerabilities of collections and in planning for mitigating measures accordingly.

3. Benchmarking. By analysing best practices in the industry and lessons learned from similar situations, benchmarking can identify specific collections care needs. Raising the standard of collections care will indirectly remove some of the potential risks. However, it's worth remembering that benchmarking tools are not risk assessment tools! Yet they can play a significant role in collections care.

Some may argue that complex risk assessment methodologies are necessary for assessing risks to collections as they provide a more comprehensive and detailed analysis of risks, allowing for a more accurate understanding of vulnerabilities and potential impacts. They also provide quantifiable data and metrics for assessing risks. It is true that it is important to acknowledge that complex methodologies indeed have their advantages in certain contexts and situations. They can give a higher level of detail and specificity, especially when dealing with complex risks. However, it should be noted that these methodologies can also be time-consuming, resource-intensive, and may require specialised expertise, making them inaccessible to many organisations or disproportionate to their requirements. It is therefore essential to consider the specific needs, resources, and limitations of the heritage organisation when deciding which risk assessment approach to employ.

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