The Journey to the Fourth Edition of Basic Condition Reporting

by Deborah Rose Van Horn

BCROver 3 years ago, the Southeastern Registrars Association (SERA), decided to update their book, Basic Condition Reporting: A Handbook. The third edition had been published in 1998 and had not been updated since. The goal of the book has always been to create a common framework for professionals when conducting condition reports. It is intended to be a reference tool for experienced collections professionals and a training tool for those new to the field.

Over time, the popularity of the book had grown. SERA started getting an increasing number of orders both within the country and overseas. This meant that the SERA Treasurer had to carry a bunch of books to the post office on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. This made the treasurer’s position one that volunteers often wanted to avoid.

When we began looking at the fourth edition of Basic Condition Reporting the board started looking at the book from a new perspective. Could we get a publishing partner? How much work would that be? Would we lose money? We decided to find out but first we needed a book.

Our first step was to contact all of the authors from the previous edition and see if they wanted to update their chapters. Less than half wanted to take on the project so the search for new authors began. This was easy at first, but as we got closer to contacting publishers we had a number of authors or editors drop out of the project. That meant that we were back to square one and we had to recruit more authors. At times it felt like herding cats!

We gave the authors the choice of either completely re-writing the chapter or updating the existing chapter and giving the previous author credit as a co-author. We also asked the authors to update the chapters by adding photographs and giving the book a whole new look. After two and a half years, we finally had something to take to publishers to see if we could find a publishing partner.

No, we didn’t have every chapter in hand but we felt that we soon would. We approached Rowman & Littlefield, the company that owns Alta Mira Press, to see if they would be interested. Within two days we had a publishing partner.

That was when we had to get serious about getting the remaining chapters turned in for editing. The process of emailing and calling people began and then disaster struck! One of our authors disappeared! We couldn’t reach them by phone or email and we had to have a chapter. We reached out once again to the previous authors and asked if we could reprint the chapter. We were saved! They agreed and the project could move forward.

After three years of managing this project, I am happy to announce that Basic Condition Reporting: A Handbook, Fourth Edition will be available on February 27, 2015. The new edition has over 70 new illustrations depicting different types of damage and sample condition report forms for many different material types. It also features updated and expanded chapters on a variety of material types including: archaeological artifacts, basketry, ceramics, glass, ethnographic artifacts, furniture, metals, natural history specimens, paintings, paper, photographs, sculpture, skins and leather, and textiles. The book also features a new chapter on condition reporting for loans. We hope you will find the book as useful as we do!

The books are available on the Rowman & Littlefield website or through

BCR flier with special discout

Deborah Rose Van Horn is the registrar at the Kentucky Historical Society and together with Heather Culligan and Corinne Midgett editor of the fourth edition of “Basic Condition Reporting: A Handbook”.


One thought on “The Journey to the Fourth Edition of Basic Condition Reporting”

  1. Felicitaciones por la edición del Manual! Los manuales siempre son buenos compañeros en el trabajo, tanto para los viejos olvidadizos, como para los jóvenes aprendices

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