ACORN (A COnservation Records Network) is a workflow management system and database for preservation documentation to be used by conservators of artistic and historic materials. It is a web-based tool that is particularly valuable for keeping track of preservation activities for multiple repositories or clients. Designed and developed by the Weissman Preservation Center in collaboration with Library Technology Services at Harvard University, ACORN is now available as open source code.


There are four major tasks that ACORN can perform. They are:

  1. Registrarial/tracking system for objects entering and leaving a conservation lab or other preservation space.
  2. Depository for treatment documentation: written and visual, embedded and linked. Data can be shared and accessed by conservation, registrarial, and curatorial units.
  3. Tracking system for preservation work and/or conservation activities. This may include activities such as environmental monitoring, emergency response, quick assessments, quick repair or other treatment-related activities that do not have a full proposal.
  4. Statistics queries: for example, amount of treatment hours by person, project, repository, or statistics by work type.

A built-in search engine makes information retrieval simple. As a web-based system, ACORN allows users to access the data at various locations and is a sustainable paperless system. All data is stored locally, either with the user or the user’s institution.

ACORN runs on a LAMP stack, using Linux as the operating system, Apache as the web server that allows the PHP to run, and PHP which communicates with MySQL to get its data.

History of ACORN Development

ACORN was designed and developed by the Weissman Preservation Center in collaboration with Library Technology Services at Harvard University. The first version of ACORN was a desktop application, developed in Visual Basic. Design of a web-based version began in 2008, and the first release of the new application was in 2009 for use by Weissman conservation staff. Feedback from the Weissman staff led to improvements in archived treatment documentation, integration with Harvard's digital repository to upload images of conservation treatments, and other enhancements.

The open source version of ACORN was released on GitHub in February 2017. It removes all dependencies on Harvard specific systems, including an abstraction layer for the digital repository interface.

“A Conservation Records Network (ACORN) - Conservation Documentation at the Weissman Preservation Center, Harvard Library” was presented as a poster at the 44th Annual AIC (American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works) Conference in Montreal, Canada, May 2016.