The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 19, Number 1
Mar 1996


Storage (Preprints for UKIC conference, Restoration '91). United Kingdom Institute for Conservation, 1991. ISBN 1 871656 12 5. 33 pp. £6/$12 members, £8/$16 nonmembers, postage included.

Reviewed by Ellen McCrady

In a 1988 report, the Public Accounts Committee expressed concern that English museums were not giving proper care to material held in storage. It said that collections were deteriorating, and management was said to have little knowledge of the overall condition of their collections or the resources needed to care for it properly. This conference was part of a rational response to the problem of collections storage. There were six papers:

Michael Corfield - "The storage of museum collections: an overview." Pressure to mount "a constantly changing cycle of novel exhibitions" takes time and funds away from the more prosaic task of caring for collections in storage. At the same time, the rate of collecting has increased greatly as a result of excavation in advance of development. A 1989 study (Office of Arts and Libraries, The Cost of Collecting) showed that collecting had gone on without considering the costs of acquiring and maintaining a collection; one proposal was to include the cost of initial conservation in the purchase price of an item. The Museums Association proposed a National Strategy for Museums in 1991, which calls for collection audits in all museums. Some museums are sharing remote storage facilities in order to improve conditions and lower costs.

Suzanne Keene - "Audits of care: a framework for collections condition surveys." Audits are surveys of the condition of collections as a whole, done by taking a random sample. A working party of representatives from major British museums, with a grant from the AOL, studied the problem, identified resources and needs, and made the recommendations outlined here. Information on types and causes of degradation, trends, priorities and other information for management use may be gathered as well. This 11-page paper gives enough detail to be used as a guide, at least for the planning stage.

Emmeline Leary - "Standards for storage in museums - UK." By "standards" the author means the requirements of granting agencies, required to qualify for a grant. This is an effective method of improving practice. It was used to good effect in the U.S. by the NHPRC, which required university presses to use paper meeting the "Barrow standards" if they wanted to qualify for a subvention grant.

Gwyn Miles - "The Victoria and Albert storage project."

Susan M. Bradley - "The implementation of environmental standards." The standard for archival storage and exhibition, BS 5454, is sometimes adapted for use in museums, since there is no such standard for museums. The author recommends flexibility in implementing standards, since materials differ so much in their component materials and storage history. She says national standards "must not be allowed to take the place of standards within a museum which have arisen from observation and experimentation and have been shown to work through the years."

David R. Jones - "A stable future for Suffolk's archives." This describes experience in an environmentally stable storage building, built after the pattern of the Österreichische Staatsarchiv in Vienna, the Algemeen Rijksarchiv at s'Gravenhage (Netherlands), the German Bundesarchiv at Koblenz, and in some French Archives Departmentales: thick walls with two ventilation cavities, good insulation, narrow windows, and wall-mounted dehumidifiers to use during spells of humid summer weather. There is no HVAC system, but windows can be opened and there is a fan in the roof space. Temperature has held steady at 13°-15°C on the first floor, and 20°C on the second floor. (2C1)

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