Analysis Portfolio

An automated system for creating conservation documentation

This is a tool that can quickly generate the minimum level of structured description and condition information needed for creating pre-treatment documentation. From this “skeleton” treatment proposal, additional information can be added manually, or it can be left as-is with only a little grammatical clean-up required to make it look like a human wrote it.

Why did I make yet another conservation documentation system?

I originally designed this tool in 2016 to quickly generate the minimum level of structured description and condition information needed for creating pre-treatment documentation at ASU Library. At the time, the library did not have the resources to purchase and maintain a commercially available conservation documentation database; there was also not enough time or staff resources available to create a homegrown database.

In the lab’s “waiting for treatment” closet, there were several items from our special collections whose future treatment responsibility had been passed down to me from my predecessors, who had received them from our curators before I started working there. At that point, some of those items had been queueing on the lab’s shelves for almost 10 years!

Since my predecessor had retired the previous year, I had been the only conservation professional caring for a hybrid (circulating and special/non-circulating) collection of several million volumes in a large university library. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this situation would persist until 2018. As you may imagine, I was incredibly short on time.

While I knew that there was no way I would have the time to treat all of them before the lab and collections had to move out of the building, I was anxious to at least document their pre-treatment condition before sending them home. I figured that I’d be one step ahead if they were still considered a treatment priority once the lab reopened in a newly renovated Hayden library.

Hence, I turned to Google Drive (and its associated apps) because it was free, I was familiar with them, and I could share the results of my work easily with stakeholders within and without my institution.

I also referenced several existing frameworks for bibliographic and conservation description, including but not limited to:

Regrettably, due to the inherent complexity of conservation documentation, this system cannot automatically generate the highest level of detailed description.

Besides, from the “skeleton” treatment proposal generated by my system, additional information and photographs can easily be added later, or it can be left as-is with only a little grammatical clean-up required to make it look like a human wrote it. Regardless, it could save you a lot of repetitious typing, particularly when doing condition surveys or batch treatments of similar items. Over the years, it has probably saved me several days’ worth of dedicated typing, and likely reduced my risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome as a result.

One day I’d like to actually transfer this concept into a standalone system and not rely so much on Google products, but at the moment this is a functional prototype of the platonic ideal of auto-generated conservation treatment documentation.

This is still a work in progress, I regret that I have not been able to polish this further, so please take that in mind regarding any errors or formatting issues you may discover.

That said, please feel free to explore, enjoy, or remix what I have created, and do not hesitate to send me ideas or suggestions for changes. I’m interested in how I could make this better, so that it can be useful to other conservation and preservation professionals who may not have the support or means to access other conservation treatment documentation database programs.

To access the project, please follow this link to the folder I have shared on Google Drive. The “Read Me” file contains the instructions I have posted below.

I strongly recommend that you save a local copy of the entire folder to your own Google Drive, and edit the form and template to meet your specific needs. Also, if you download it and try to use it in Microsoft Excel and Word, it will not work. You must open these files in Google Drive for the system to work correctly.

Instructions for using the automated conservation documentation system


For maximum results, you should install the add-on, autoCrat, which allows you to populate the provided Google Docs report template with the data generated from the Google Form. There are other add-ons which provide a similar functionality, but the supplied template form is only guaranteed to work with autoCrat. The autoCrat User Guide provides more instruction and information about how to set up templates.

Google Form

I have provided access to a copy of the most recent version of the Google Form, but you are welcome to make a copy for yourself and modify it accordingly. Please do not directly modify the copy I’ve provided – this is so that everyone can have the opportunity to see the original form.

To begin, start a new form submission on the Conservation Treatment Report Google Form: 

Answer the questions for each section – only a few questions are required. If you do not have or know the correct answer to a question, you may skip it; it is better to leave that information as “unknown” rather than inaccurately describe an object. You can add that information in later, by directly editing the auto-generated treatment proposal.

It will give you different sections to fill out based on your selections in certain parts of the form. I focused most of my attention on refining the “Bound volume/book” description parts of the form, but a “flat paper” section is also available. There’s also potential to add other sections, for objects, textiles, paintings, etc.

Once the form has been submitted, the data will be automatically populated into the connected Google Sheets spreadsheet:

The data in each column can be manually edited also, though it is best to keep a ‘clean copy’ as a backup instead of directly editing the original spreadsheet.

Generating the Treatment Proposal

Use autoCrat to build a new job, and use the supplied template “Treatment Proposal”. You can also create your own template, by using any of the field names within double angle brackets as placeholders. The field names must be used exactly as they are used in the Google Form, otherwise the template will not be able to input the data into the template correctly. 

Set up the job so that it generates individual Google Docs, and provide a naming scheme such as “Treatment_Proposal_<<Title>>”. Once you’ve set up your job and saved it, you can then run the job:  autoCrat will take the data from the Google Sheet and generate individualized Treatment Proposals. 

There are several examples of generated treatment proposals in the “Examples of Proposals” folder.

At this point, the generated proposal document may still have some formatting or excess text that may need to be cleaned up by hand, but this takes only a few minutes after you get the hang of it. Photographs can also be inserted at the end of the document, or wherever you like.