The museum has about 12,000 square feet of space devoted to securing and storing the collection. The 2nd floor storage room is about 1000 square feet, and has a similar footprint to the other storage rooms within the museum. Since the museum opened to the public in 1985, the cabinets and drawers pictured here have housed the collection of 17th- to early 20th-century garments in the second floor storage room. At the time of installation, the cabinets were state-of-the-art, museum grade, and accommodated the growing collection. Three decades later we see the cabinets and drawers are over-filled, degrading (i.e. bowing, difficult to to open or close) and no longer functioning as originally intended. Garments can be difficult to access and retrieve, and these conditions diminish the level of preservation.
My goal has been to obtain an IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services) grant to upgrade the storage furniture. In August of 2020, I was informed the museum was awarded the IMLS Museums for America grant to upgrade the storage cabinets. YAY! The project started in September 2020, and I’m excited to share the progress. Prior to the grant project starting, all of the garments were inventoried and transferred to another storage room. Outside of the grant project, the museum replaced four aging steam valves in the ceiling (part of the heating system), painted the space and upgraded the lighting, diffusers and ceiling tiles. After all, with the space empty, now was the perfect time to complete this work.
You can see the progress in the images below. The subfloor and rails will support the carriages for the new storage cabinets. The museum will gain about 12% capacity from the condensed storage cabinets and improve collection stewardship. Garments will be more readily accessible for scholars and students, and staff will be able to research and incorporate objects into exhibitions, further anchoring the Museum as an important resource for the campus and local communities. Improving access and preservation for the collection starts with some hard work. Check-out the the images:
The carriages and cabinets are scheduled for installation the beginning of February 2021. I will document the process and share the transformation in another post.
Joanne Fenn, Associate Professor, Collections Manager/Museum Registrar