Interested in Storage Solutions? Attend the STASH Flash session at AIC's Annual Meeting

STASH_logoSafe storage for collections is one of the primary goals of preventive care for collecting institutions, and individuals charged with collections care and cultural institutions often face challenges in designing storage and support systems for individual items or collections. Collecting institutions report damage from handling and improper storage or enclosures as significant preservation problems, supported by the Heritage Health Index finding that only 11% of all institutions had adequate storage facilities. There are few established venues for sharing information about the fabrication of supports, containers or systems that provide options for storage and support solutions.
A successful storage solution is the result of numerous choices regarding materials, techniques, time and skill. STASH (Storage Techniques for Art, Science and History collections), a new web based resource housed on Cool, sponsored by FAIC and funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation is based on the understanding that the best ideas for safe and sustainable storage and support come from collaborative solutions. This project was precipitated by the need to find a new way to disseminate the older but highly valuable text, Storage of Natural History Collections: Ideas and Practical Solutions, originally published by the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC), and is designed to gather, organize and solicit new storage ideas. The 42nd annual AIC Meeting on sustainable choices in collections care provides a forum for continued discussion about these topics.
The session will utilize a lightening round or “Tips” session format as well as guided, audience participatory discussion. Carefully selected short presentations will be given in a format that closely aligns with web site entries. These will be followed by small group discussions where individuals from different specialties have the opportunity to talk about the presentations, modifications, materials choice as well as creative ways to carry out these projects. The objective is to help make these solutions more sustainable by evaluating project organization, materials and construction. Members of AIC have experience with a wide range of collections, collectors and institutions, and combining short presentations with shared discussion about storage solution projects within the context of the STASH website will provide the attendees with the opportunity to truly engage in the kind of interdisciplinary conversation that often results in sustainable and conscientious choices.
READ ON for abstracts of the selected presentations:
Solutions for Individual Items
Simple Box Construction
T. Ashley McGrew, Independent Consultant/PACCIN Publications Chair
In this presentation, a custom lidded storage box will be fabricated from heritage board in less than four minutes. This simple and efficient method for mass production of storage trays and lidded boxes was utilized recently during the re-housing of a medium sized archeological collection and is made possible with the use of a “homemade” creaser that can be constructed inexpensively with materials found in any home improvement center by someone with an intermediate level of proficiency in wood and metal working in just a couple hours time.
The Elephantine in the Stacks; Housing an Oversize Serial
Jamie Roberts, Conservation Technician, Library of Congress
The project describes custom housing for an elephantine newspaper (approx. 36” by 51” inches, closed) that allows for both safe storage and quick display. This relatively simple housing is easy to fabricate and the elements of the storage portfolio can be rearranged to provide an easel to show the newspaper.
If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit
Laura Mina and Lisa Stockebrand, Costume and Textiles Conservation, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Shoes with unusual materials and designs require custom mounts to provide appropriate support during storage and transportation. This presentation will detail two case studies from the Philadelphia Museum of Art where new materials and custom solutions support the idiosyncratic needs of diverse collections.
Solutions for Groups of Items
From Heel to Toe: The Costume Institute Shoe Rehousing Project
Rebecca Bacheller and Lauren Helliwell, Research Assistants for Collections, Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art
This presentation details the Costume Institute’s efforts to create internal and external storage supports for a large, varied shoe collection, with examples from the sixteenth century through the present. The basic model involves creating Ethafoam heel and toe supports to pressure-fit the shoe to an archival cardboard handling tray. Without ties or tissue covering, the support system allows for greater visual and tactile accessibility to the object with minimal handling. This technique uses common archival materials but adaptations to the basic storage model have been developed to address conservation, material, and structural concerns which arise in such a varied collection.
A Vertical Storage System for Flat Plaque Baskets
Crista Pack, Kress Post-Graduate Fellow
Dr. Nancy Odegaard, Conservator and Head of the Preservation Division
The Arizona State Museum (ASM) recently developed a storage solution for 200 flat plaque baskets to address the needs for efficient space usage, cost effectiveness, preservation, and facilitated access. The plaque baskets are round, flat, rigid and mostly coil and wicker weave. ASM conservators determined that many could be safely stored vertically if sufficiently padded and supported. A tray with dividers, foam, and pillows which can house up to 25 plaque baskets upright was devised for these purposes. Four trays (approximately 100 baskets) can be placed on a rolling wire shelf unit. This solution not only saves space, but allows researchers to easily find, view, and access individual baskets. This presentation covers the design, construction, advantages and disadvantages of these storage trays.
Ziplock Bag File Box
Angela Yvarra McGrew, Contract Conservator, Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University,
This presentation describes the design and construction of a box designed to hold small artifacts stored in polyethylene “Ziplock” bags upright to maximize space. The boxes can be customized to allow for wider spacing needed for objects that are more 3-dimensional. The container box has a ledge so that more of the bag is visible once the lid is off.
A Housing for the Horizontal Storage of Cracked Phonograph Discs
Rayan Ghazal, Preservation Officer and Brandon Burke, Archivist for Recorded Sound Collections, Hoover Institution Library and Archives, Stanford University
There is little if any debate that the preferred storage orientation for phonograph discs is in the vertical attitude. However discs in poor condition, particularly cracked glass-based discs, and discs of any substrate exhibiting advanced delamination, cannot be stored vertically without exacerbating damage. This presentation demonstrates the functionality of a housing that was custom-designed by conservators and archivists at the Hoover Institution Library and Archives for the horizontal storage of cracked, broken, and/or delaminating phonograph discs.
LBJ’s White House Photograhs;Roll-Film Negative Storage Problems and Solutions
Margaret Harman, Audiovisual Archives Specialist, Lyndon B. Johnson Library & Museum
For decades the original negatives (ca. 30,000 film rolls) in the LBJ Library’s White House Photo Collection remained in 1960s era acidic paper “wallet” enclosures stored inside rusty metal file cabinets. After 50 years of active use, many of the wallets showed considerable wear and negatives needed rehousing to prevent damage. Finding ready-made negative enclosures that meet institutional requirements has been difficult in this increasingly digital age. Hopefully sharing our experiences and exchanging ideas will result in potential solutions.
Discussion Points
The safe and effective storage for negatives is a problem that faces many collections care individuals in an array of institutions. We have heard several presentations where effective solutions were proposed for the storage of multiple like items. Based on these, and past experience, what solutions might your group consider for the problems presented by storage of negative films?
Sustainable Solutions
Compactor Storage
Cathleen Zaret, Mellon Fellow in Textile Conservation and Emily Kaplan, Conservator, Smithsonian Institution – National Museum of the American Indian
This presentation highlights some examples of a variety of storage solutions that were developed at the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution by collections management staff in collaboration with conservators during and after a five year project to move and re-house 800,000 ethnographic and archaeological objects. Challenges included protection of collections from lateral and vertical movement as they were housed in nine foot high electronic compactor storage units and shelved with mechanical warehouse lifts, while maintaining accessibility and visibility of the objects and taking future handling into consideration.
Evaluating Shipping Containers as Storage
Geneva J. Griswold, 3rd year students in the UCLA/Getty Program on the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Objects, Walters Art Museum, Division of Conservation & Technical Research
Ayesha Fuentes, 3rd year students in the UCLA/Getty Program on the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Objects,
Metal shipping containers are often used for short and long-term storage of cultural materials and archives in post-disaster remediation, as well as in areas with limited permanent storage solutions. While shipping containers are widely available and inexpensive, their lack of climate control may catalyze deterioration unless modified. Research is currently underway to develop guidelines for the preparation, installation, and maintenance of metal shipping containers to be used as storage facilities. Feedback and suggestions for further study are sought from the AIC community at large.
Defending the Use of (Recycled) Materials
Christian Hernandez, Contributing writer, Plinth Magazine
Materials used in the long-term storage of museum objects usually are not made from recycled materials since these are traditionally considered of a lesser quality. This presentation relates research to find sustainable museum quality materials by comparing conventionally used materials to sustainable alternatives that have the same working qualities. Tests of several foams and boards demonstrate there are materials made from recycled material that can pass an Oddy Test, which is the most commonly used benchmark of all museum-quality materials.
Discussion Points
In most institutions, housings are designed to fit the pre-determined needs of the space, staff or available equipment and cost. As collections care professionals become more cognizant of and concerned about sustainable choices, the range of acceptable choices can become broader. What materials, solutions and choices would / could you suggest that would highlight sustainability as a goal in creating an effective storage solution?