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The Home Collection Game

Roleplay as secret agents and supervillains as you learn to apply museum knowledge on preventive conservation and create tailored preservation measures for your own home collections.

CurriculumAll CohortsFacilitators

Description 😎

This course will introduce concepts on deterioration as used in museums. Can you wrap things in newspapers? Is this bug eating your 3rd grade BFF’s letters? Why are grandpa’s medals going green? We’ll learn how deterioration takes place and devise imaginative and practical solutions that facilitate the long term survival of much beloved collected items: Students will role-play as James Bond characters to create 1) evil schemes to destroy each other’s collections and 2) marvellous designs to save their own.

Requirements ✅

  • Paper and pen or any other drawing app that you can share screen with
  • Willingness to play and create inane hypothetical situations
  • Google account and access to Google Drive
  • A prop that changes your appearance somewhat for Weeks 4-5
  • No previous knowledge required

Course Objectives 🌟

  • Introduce concepts of preventive conservation.
  • Rethink personal collection strategies and purposes.
  • Develop an understanding of how collections may be affected in the long run.
  • Explore the possibilities for improving the state of home collections.

Structure 📕

  • Up to 6 students
  • 2-hour sessions, once a week, for 5 weeks
  • No homework

What you get 🎁

  • A basic understanding of the way collections deteriorate through interactive exercises and play.
  • You will ideally have a plan you can implement in your own home collection to improve its chances of long term survival.

Is this course for you? ❓

  • Anyone with a collection they want to keep around for as long as possible. It can be art, heirlooms, coin collections, photo albums, letters, books, etc.
  • If you don't have an actual collection yet, you just need to have one in mind.
  • This course is not aimed at people with any formal conservation or museum studies training.
  • Students in training are welcome.

Schedule 📅

Week 1: Introductions

  • Who am I? Who are you? What do you want to learn? Why are we here?
  • Brief outline of what we will learn in this course and how the game will run
  • Introductory issues: Curation vs. conservation. Types of collections. What happens when things go wrong? Definitions: Interventive vs. preventive conservation.


  • Define your collection. What have you got? Why do you want to conserve it? Have you noticed any deterioration over time? Have you noticed this deterioration being related to any particular thing? Consider bringing an example or photo of it to show everyone next week or pull it up now.

Week 2: The Evil Agents of Deterioration Part I

  • Show and tell. Participants show any items from their home collections and why they’re interested in taking care of it.
  • Introduction to the 10 agents of deterioration
  • What do we think about these agents? Why do we think they’re in this list? How are they going to affect our items?


  • Have you had experiences with any of these? What happened? Draw the before and after of your object. Be creative. Show your feelings when it happened. Exaggerate if you want. If this hasn’t happened to you, imagine what would happen if it did.

–5min BREAK–

  • Definition: 5 agents of deterioration (physical forces, thieves/vandals/displacers, fire, water, pests)


  • Identify these first 5 agents in your home. Group exercise to think about our own situations

Week 3: The Evil Agents of Deterioration Part II

  • Definition: 5 agents of deterioration (pollutants, light, incorrect temperature, incorrect relative humidity and neglect or dissociation)

–5min BREAK–


  • Have you had experiences with any of these? What happened? Tell us the story as if it had been a tragic occurrence, or like a film noir, or like a Pixar film, or a Spaghetti Western, or Twilight, or WWII Documentary. Etc.


  • Group reflection: Identify these second 5 agents in your home. Are they threatening your collection? Why? Do you think you will be able to address them?


  • Recap 10 agents: How do they form systems? How do they interact? What is the perfect storm in my home collection possibilities? Go wild.

Your victim

  • You will be randomly assigned a victim in the group to attack. Don't tell anyone.

Week 4: Deteriorate Another Day

  • Rules of the game will be explained.

Investigate your victim

  • Pay special attention to what your assigned victim says and ask questions about things you need to know without giving yourself away. Ask everyone questions.

Be a willing victim

  • Review your own previous exercises. Explain to us the condition of your collection. Show us photos if you’re comfortable with that. What are your biggest fears/threats? Be honest. Hide nothing.

-5 min BREAK-

My master plan is....

  • You are the Bad Horse of the Evil League of Evil Agents of Deterioration. (ELEAD for short) Give yourself a name if you can. The silly owners of the collection you want to destroy just unintentionally told you everything you needed to know. Fools. How will you make and execute your ultimate evil plan to destroy your assigned participants’ collections to smithereens in the most creative possible ways? Will you succeed? Can you make them cry? Think of as many ways as you want using what you know about how deterioration works. Make a Rube Goldberg / Heath Robinson machine if you feel the need. Be the Despicable You that you need to be to make that stuff be gone. Make them suffer. Present to the group.

Helpful resources: Review of good places to get reliable information.

Next class: Bring your props. We will take a class photo of evil agents.

Week 5: The Final Showdown

  • Recap of evil plans
  • Think about multi-layered protection
  • Learn about Avoid, Block, Detect, Respond

–5m BREAK–

Defend your collection

  • Synced exercise: Prepare an action plan based on previous identifications made and what you know they want to do: Avoid, Block, Detect, Respond. Analyse current conditions, identify agents endangering your home collection, block as many agents as possible, take action.
  • Defenders, present your action plan to the group. Receive feedback. How can/will you address your major threats?

Did it work?

  • Attackers, reveal yourselves to your victims. Now that your participant victim has made their defense plan, will your evil plan to destroy their collection work? Have you been thwarted?

Useful resources: I will give you websites and stores and talk about specific resources for each student.

Final Reflections: What did you learn? What do you hope to bring to reality? Ask for future ideas for course extensions, other topics that would be interesting.

Important things you should know 👀

  • This course does not necessitate any further investment beyond the course itself. All personal expenses related to improvement of a home collection are strictly optional and are not necessary for the fulfillment of the coursework.
  • This course will not teach conservation treatments and does not encourage interventions by untrained professionals.
  • This course is intended to be a fun exercise while still giving out real, professional, museum conservator advice and guidance.
  • Selected optional readings will be provided for those with more interest in the topic but will not be required reading.
5 weeksUp to 6 learners


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