What are some storage solutions to collection problems?

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Category: Storage
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Posted by Conservation Answers(Questions:33:Answers28)
Answered On 16 February, 2014 5:57 am

If the available facilities or the local climate make it difficult for you to achieve the preferred conditions, the selection of the storage site and the maintenance of a good storage system will become even more critical in preventing damage to the collections.

Wherever possible:

- The storage and display sites should be in a central area of the building, where they are buffered from the extremes of climatic fluctuations that can be experienced near external walls or in basements and attics.
- The storage site should not contain any water, drain or steam pipes, particularly at ceiling level. If these pipes were to leak extensive damage could result.
The storage and display sites should be reasonably ventilated. This will help reduce the risk of insect and mould infestation.
- Inspect and clean storage and display areas regularly. Thorough and regular cleaning and vigilance will also greatly assist in the control of insects and mould.
- Cover stored paintings with a Tyvek cover. These are easy to make for individual works, using a domestic sewing machine. They will protect the paintings and their frames from dust and insects. These covers will also help to protect the works from fluctuations in environmental conditions.
- Always give paintings adequate support and try to reduce the physical stress that can cause damage.
- If paintings are to be stored against walls, ensure that they are placed on padded blocks to take them off the floor level, and ensure that they are not near heavy traffic areas as they could be damaged as people walk past them or if people drop things on them.
- Sort them according to their condition – it is important to separate items that are very acidic to prevent the migration of acids and impurities into sound paper items;
- Check them for mould and/or insect infestation;
- Gently brush them with a soft brush to remove surface dust, where necessary, but only if the item is stable.

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Posted by Marcelle Scott(Questions:33:Answers28)
Answered On 28 January, 2014 3:23 am

Shelving, racks and drawers all help to organise the storage area, and make the most of the space. It is best to have individual items boxed, or packed by other methods, rather than loose, as this reduces handling, as well as helping to make the most of the storage space. It is helpful to have some empty tables or bench-tops to rest items and boxes on while examining or changing their location. To save time and further unnecessary handling of items, shelves and drawers should be numbered, boxes should be labelled, and records of what is on each shelf should be kept.

Also, try to organise storage so that it is not necessary to shift one item to get to another. Remember, reducing handling reduces the potential for accidental damage.

For many items in the collection, the storage area will be their main home, so it is important to make the environment in the storage area as beneficial to the collection as you can. Everything discussed in the topic on Museum Environment is relevant here, and should be considered - relative humidity, temperature, light exposure, air circulation, microclimates within the boxes, mould, pests. As items are not as visible in storage, it is worthwhile checking through the stored items on a regular basis. Mould outbreaks and insect infestations in storage areas can cause a lot of damage before being discovered.

Items in storage can also be at risk of water damage, especially if there are overhead exposed pipes in the storage area, or if plumbing services run nearby. Regular maintenance checks can reduce this likelihood, but remember that accidents do happen. A one-time occurrence such as a leaking pipe overnight, or while the museum is closed, can cause a great deal of damage (and anguish!) by the time staff return to the museum. If there is a risk, try to prevent it happening, but also be prepared for the event through careful disaster preparedness planning.

A storage area should be a secure, safe home for collection items. The level of security measures taken will vary depending on the value of the collection, and the risk of break-in for the neighbourhood. Usually, storage area security begins with door and window locks, and ranges through to a full system installed by a security company. It may also be helpful to restrict access to the storage area to only those staff members who need it. This also cuts down excess human traffic and potential accidents from occurring.

It is also good idea to keep storage and work areas separate. This helps to keep the storage area free of food crumbs and spilled drinks, overcrowding of bench spaces from items being left out while being assessed or examined, and having the lights on all day. If your space is too small to do this however, there are ways these risks can be lessened, such as having rules about where food and drinks are allowed, covering exposed items to protect from light and dust, and implementing good house-keeping practices.

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