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About Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts

About the Program

Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program focuses on promoting awareness of collections care. For six successful years, the program has benefited over 100 organizations and their artifacts. Among the outcomes: museums have secured donors, volunteers, and grants for conservation support. Many of the nominated artifacts have been conserved or are currently undergoing conservation treatment. Learn more about the status of some of our Top 10 Endangered Artifacts.


Participating collecting institutions have the opportunity to increase awareness through the public voting component where the public can declare their support for their favorite museum, library, or archive - and make a contribution - by voting at as many times as they like. The organization receiving the most votes is recognized as the "People's Choice". The "Top 10" Honorees are lastly selected by a panel of conservators and collections care experts from the Library of Virginia, Preservation Virginia, Virginia Conservation Association, Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and an independent conservator.



Disclaimer: Information on nominated artifacts has been provided by the nominating organization. VAM does not independently verify authenticity or accuracy of information about artifacts in the program.



Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How did the Top 10 program come about?

A: After VAM explored media attention and interest surrounding the safety and sustainability of museum / library / archive collections, we found that the media needed a compelling reason to follow stories surrounding collections. A Top 10 “competition” and list provides the “hook” that the media is interested in and acts as a pathway from collections storage to the newsroom. 


Q: What is the goal of Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts Program?

A: Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program addresses the national recommendations of the Heritage Health Index Report to raise public funding and awareness of the importance of collections care. 


Q: Who can participate in the program?

A: Collecting institutions in Virginia and the District of Columbia, such as museums, galleries, libraries, archives, historic homes, and historical societies. Participants must be VAM museum members.


Q: Is it a grant program?

A: Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program is not a grant-giving program. It is designed to give collecting institutions an opportunity to raise media and public awareness about the ongoing and expensive care of collections, and collections care needs.


Q: Why should an organization consider participating?

A: By virtue of nominating an item to Virginia’s Top 10, your institution has the opportunity to leverage the nomination to tell the story of your artifacts, your collections, and your site. The Public Voting component of the program is a fantastic reason to connect with and build your audience, plus educate them (in a fun way!) about the importance of collections. Results have included increased visibility and press coverage, which have led to increased abilities to fund raise for collections care. Institutions have also gained new volunteers, secured funding for the conservation of their nominated items, and received grant awards due to their designation. Survey results show that priority for collections care has taken a more prominent role at the participating institutions as well.


Q: Who determines the final Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts?

A: An independent peer review panel of conservators and collections experts meets to review all nominations and make the final decisions. 


Q: Is it a ranking from the 10th most endangered artifact to the 1st most endangered?

A: No. It is a list of 10 artifacts that have been deemed to be that year’s “Most Endangered.” Artifacts that receive a Top 10 designation stay on “the list” until which time that a conservation solution is found.


Q: What is the People’s Choice Award?

A: The People’s Choice honor is designed to acknowledge the institution(s) that garner the most votes during the fan-based public voting portion of the program. 


Q: If my organization gets the most votes during the Public Voting period, don’t we automatically take a spot in the Top 10?

A: No. Our independent review panel has the final say on the honorees; however, they do consider the public voting component when evaluating nominations. We created the “People’s Choice Award” to recognize organizations that garnered an incredible number of votes through their outstanding public outreach. The professional peer review panel thoroughly weighs the threats and integrity of the artifacts while leveling the playing field for those sites that don’t have the marketing power of larger organizations. 


Q: Can private individuals nominate an artifact?

A: Not at this time; if you have an artifact that you believe to be endangered and/or of value, please consider taking it to an appraiser and/or conservator. You may want to check with your local Historical Society to find trusted professionals near you. 


Q: If my institution nominated an object last year, can we nominate again?

A: Yes: You may nominate a new object, or if the object you nominated last year was not designated as a “Top 10” or “People’s Choice” winner, you may nominate that same object again. If your object received a designation last year, it remains on our “endangered” list until which time the threat has been ameliorated or resolved. 


Q: What types of objects are nominated?

A: A huge variety of objects are nominated to the Virginia’s Top 10 program. Items have included works on paper, textiles, mosaics, train engines, airplanes, wooden artifacts, religious artifacts, stone statues, and more. 


Q: Isn’t it a “bad thing” to be on a “most endangered” list? 

A: All of the artifacts in the care of collecting institutions are threatened each day by environmental factors, disasters, or simply by their material makeup, as well as time. Frequently, many of the artifacts that come into a collecting institution’s care are damaged and deteriorating upon arrival. Still other artifacts require constant, daily care simply to maintain their current state. By the very nature of historical and artistic objects, there is a threat. Nominating an item from your collection only helps to highlight the important work done at your institution and the goals and needs you have for maintaining your collection.


Q: How is this program related to Preservation Virginia's Most Endangered Sites program?

A: Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program was created to complement the Preservation Virginia program. Preservation Virginia's Most Endangered Sites program focuses on sites in Virginia that are in danger of being lost. By focusing on endangered artifacts, VAM's Top 10 program ensures that awareness is also being raised for artifacts that are in danger. Because Preservation Virginia announces its Most Endangered Sites each spring, VAM chose to announce the Top 10 Endangered Artifacts each fall. This way, the programs act as "bookends to preservation."


Explore Preservation Virginia's Most Endangered Sites program. 


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