The ABC Method: a risk management approach to the preservation of cultural heritage

Cover of the ABC Method document. (Credits: ICCROM website)

Risks to cultural heritage vary from catastrophic events (such as earthquakes,  floods,  etc) to gradual processes (such as chemical, physical, or biological degradation). The result is loss of value to the heritage. Sometimes, the risk does not involve any type of material damage to the heritage asset, but rather the loss of information about it, or the inability to access heritage items. So, heritage managers need to understand these risks well so as to make good decisions about protection of the heritage (for future generations) while also providing access for the current generation. ICCROM (Intergovernamental Organisation devoted to protect Cultural Heritage)  and the Canadian Conservation Institute have published the “The ABC Method: a risk management approach to the preservation of cultural  heritage”.

The handbookl is based on the five steps pf the management cycle (Establish the context,  identify risks, analyze risks, evaluate risks, treat risks)  and, for each step, three or more tasks are identified, whose complete list

1. Establish the context

  • Task 1: Consult with decision makers. Define the scope, goals and criteria.
  • Task 2: Collect and understand the relevant information.
  • Task 3: Build the value pie.

2. Identify risks

  • Task 1: Assemble the appropriate tools and strategies.
  • Task 2: Survey the heritage asset and make a photographic record.
  • Task 3: Identify specific risks, name them, and write their summary sentences.

3. Analyze risks

  • Task 1: Quantify each specific risk.
  • Task 2: Split or combine specific risks, as needed.
  • Task 3: Review and refine the analyses.

4. Evaluate risks

  • Task 1: Compare risks to each other, to criteria, to expectations.
  • Task 2: Evaluate the sensitivity of prioritization to changes in the value pie.
  • Task 3: Evaluate uncertainty, constraints, opportunities.

5. Treat risks

  • Task 1: Identify risk treatment options.
  • Task 2: Quantify risk reduction options.
  • Task 3: Evaluate risk reduction options.
  • Task 4: Plan and implement selected options.

The document is an important study aimed at helping cultural heritage managers and risk assessment professionals in starting the process that limits damages to buildings and artefacts. The document is freely downloadable from the ICCROM website.

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