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Subject: Slides of storage conditions

Slides of storage conditions

From: Richard Fuller <frichard>
Date: Thursday, January 4, 2001
Ken Myers <kenmyers [at] mindspring__com> writes

>It is our hope that we will be able to convince our Board to pay
>attention to the care and storage of our collection as an
>institutional priority. Present storage is insufficient and
>conditions are deplorable in many ways.

In response to Ken Myers concerning raising awareness of board
members regarding poor collection storage conditions I offer our
experience in a similar situation. Ten years ago a large portion of
our approximately thirty thousand objects collection had suffered
through decades of poor storage conditions. Beyond moving
collections around and covering them as short term solutions to
environmentally caused deterioration it was clear that the only
course was to begin planning for new storage facilities. Of course,
money was an issue but a well-developed concept needed to precede
asking for money. This is critical if you are to stand up to the
many tough questions that should, and most likely will, be asked
during the process.

In our case the concept was for a 'collections first' approach in
contrast to an exhibit weighted one. The logic here is that if you
do not protect your collections now eventually there will be nothing
to exhibit in the future. In our situation as a municipal government
operated museum/Living History Site we had to convince local
politicians rather than board members.

To shorten a long story we decided to offer our site as a location
for a council meeting after which we would take the politicians on a
tour of the worst storage environments. I don't think one needs any
particular training to understand the potential for deterioration in
a barn filled to the rafters with artifacts many of which were
covered in dust, water stains, racoon tracks and random piles of
excrement. Your situation may not be as bad but there is no doubt
that experiencing the sight (and smell) of such a site will go
further in convincing people than a comfy slide show after lunch.

Photographs are helpful but don't leave out the face to face
experience. There is a certain sense of shame that can occur that,
although not pleasant, does reflect the responsibility these people
have in maintaining community or private collections. In some cases
board members may have direct legal responsibility for damage to
museum collections. This sobering fact could bring immediate
attention to the matter. If citizens donate artifacts to a public
museum surely they should expect accountability in the ongoing care
of their objects. The idea is to preserve these historic collections
for future as well as current generations. This must be understood
by governing bodies.

Five years ago we were successful in getting a 35,000 sq.ft. storage
facility,offices and conservation labs. Of course, there may be
other factors in achieving the facilities you require besides
convincing board members and having a good plan. Perhaps other
people's experience will be helpful here. Good luck with your
project,

May I add another suggestion; You didn't mention collection policies
in your message. If these are not in place this may be a good time
to create them. A strong Conservation Policy can provide the
professional  museological reference and consequent motivation for
improvements to your collections storage areas. Preservation should
also be a part of a comprehensive Collections Management Policy. If
your board simply doesn't understand the problems perhaps inviting
them to a workshop on care of collections or basic conservation
would help enlighten them. Also, as well as showing them your
inadequate storage conditions in person take them on a field trip to
the nearest museum with good storage environments--again, seeing for
themselves may help the penny drop.

Richard Fuller
Conservator,
Doon Heritage Crossroads,
Kitchener,Ontario, Canada N2G 3W5
519-748-1914 ext. 230


                                  ***
                  Conservation DistList Instance 14:37
                 Distributed: Tuesday, January 9, 2001
                       Message Id: cdl-14-37-005
                                  ***
Received on Thursday, 4 January, 2001

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