After seven years of dialogue, debate and the last leg of the lengthy, two-stage voting process, the replacement for BS5454 has finally been approved for publication. With no national votes against its launch and 16 nations all voting in favour, it will now go through the CEN (european standards) publishing system and is expected to be formally released by February 2018.
BS EN 16893:2018, as it is expected to be numbered in the UK, is fully titled (using the standard prefix of all conservation standards): Conservation of Cultural Heritage - Specifications for the location, construction and modification of buildings and rooms intended for the storage or use of cultural heritage collections. This rather extensive title was settled upon, after much discussion, so that its scope was clear and to ensure good translation into potentially all the languages across the CEN system (though probably only a few will translate it out of the English tongue in which all EN standards are worked up).
CEN is not the EU. The British Standards Institution has determined that it will remain a member of CEN, in the same way that it is a member of ISO, the wider international standards organisation.
This new standard replaces BS5454, which will now formally be withdrawn after c.40 years. For the first time we have a standard for all museum and gallery buildings as well as for archives and libraries. This change may take time to become apparent to museum professionals: those working in the archives and libraries world are used to having a standard for buildings, but perhaps less so museum folk. We hope to promote it as widely as possible and that readers of this blog will discuss it in cross-discplinary arenas.
Archive and library people will need to be aware that EN 16893 focuses on the building construction elements that were the main thrust of BS5454 and does not contain the archive-specific clauses on archival packaging and shelf equipment. Importantly, neither does it contain standards on temperature and humidity control or exhibition of archive and library materials. The new standard is intended for planning, reviewing, designing and constructing storage and display spaces that would house all forms of heritage material. For those archive-specific elements, archvists, librarians and conservators should now use BS4971:2017 Conservation and care of archive and library collections. If you are planning a new or refurbished archival store and, in addition to construction information, you want to make architects and engineers aware of environmental conditions required, ask them to refer to BS4971 as well as EN 16893. BS4971 is a management standard, where EN 16893 (like BS5454 before it) is a construction standard and as such should be used at any time to review and monitor the quality of storage and display of archives and books.
An important thrust of EN 16893 is that, more even than PD5454:2012, it clearly promotes the use of passive climate storage wherever this is appropriate for collection materials and minimising energy use in both storage and display/reading areas. It is hoped that this more explicit stance, especially when read alongside the new ways of thinking on environment exemplified by BS4971, will help us convey to the mechanical engineering and architecture community that stable and suitable internal climates can be better achieved with thoughtful and common-sense structural design.
Chris Woods, chairman BSI IDT/02/9 & convenor CEN TC346 WG4 TG1
As a post-script we would remind you that, once released, we aim to provide all NCS members (including Supporting members) with free access to this new EN standard, alongside the many others covering the conservation of collections that we already provide. Another good reason, amongst many, to join our non-profit membership community of over 150 institutions acrss the UK.