Emergency Procedure Review

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Back to Main Page: Disaster Response at the National Gallery: Emergency Grab Bag

General Conclusions

Testing was essential to establish realistic response times for the recovery procedure at the National Gallery, i.e. how long it takes for the recovery team to reach the targeted painting(s) before treatment can begin. This response time was considerably longer than that established in the earlier research for the Courtauld galleries. This impacted the National Gallery's procedure in terms of how effectively some substances could be dealt with.

The tests, however, demonstrated that such procedures are a useful template that can be tailored to suit most institutions. Even after a fifteen-minute response time, favourable results could be obtained compared to just leaving paintings untreated. Conducting the simulated attacks and practicing the response procedure also revealed that the ‘worst case scenario’ PPE, whilst appearing to be cumbersome and restrictive, does not impede the activities required by the flowcharts. Paintings could be handled safely with the thick chemical resistant gloves; backboards and hanging hardware could be removed without any dexterity issues, and all tools could be used effectively.

The importance of preparedness policies is only too clearly illustrated as a result of previous interventions on attacked works of art. The development of an emergency plan and grab bag is easy, quick, and relatively cheap to achieve. Even though an attack of vandalism is impossible to predict, the successful mitigation of damage to a targeted painting is well within an institution’s organisational and financial means.

For a full discussion of the conclusions to the project please see: 'Incident preparedness at the National Gallery: Developing a grab bag for rapid response to a corrosive attack' published in Studies in Conservation in 2014.