STASH Flash III Storage Tips Session – May 14, 2016

The 2016 STASH Flash storage tips session at the Montreal annual meeting will AIC2016-meetinghave three themes:

  1. Building on the conference theme the first group of presentations offer solutions for emergency or disaster situations like flooding or earthquakes.
  2. Building on a topic that came out of the 2015 STASH Flash discussion session and the TSG Tips session, the second proposed theme focuses on multi-function supports, with functions serving more than one purpose, such as storage, storage, travel and/or exhibition purposes.
  3. Additional innovative storage solutions for individual or collections will be presented in the third grouping.

Presentations will be posted on the STASH site after the meeting.


Name: Rustin Levenson, Veronica Romero, Oliver Watkiss, and Kelly O’Neill
Institution: ArtCare, Miami
Object/collection type: Paintings
Abstract: When we moved into our new space, we designed an art storage rack that we felt would offer the best protection for works in our care if we faced a hurricane. The shell of the rack is plywood. The interior is divided into slots by reinforced PVC piping, which allows air to circulate freely. Clear vinyl flooring on the bottom of each slot protects paintings from the wood and provides safe access. The rack is on large wheels, which would allow us to move to the driest area in the studio if the roof is compromised and lock when the rack is in place.  A sail maker designed a waterproof, zipping cover for the rack.  The cover has extra material, which allows room for a dehumidifier, which could be powered by a generator.
Name(s): Nichole Doub, Head Conservator
Institution: Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory
Collection Type:   Waterlogged wood
Abstract: When a runaway barge collided with navigation markers on the Nanticoke River last spring, the Coast Guard called the resulting debris a hazard to the commercial waterway and ordered Maryland State Highways Association to remove the timbers.  When the divers started to haul up the timbers, it was a surprise to find a 30 foot section of a ship’s keel.  Suddenly, it was a rush to salvage as many timbers before the disturbed wreck site was washed out to the Chesapeake Bay.  With no plans for funding, staff, excavation, curation, conservation, viability surveys etc., an above ground pool with a custom made bubbler system became a very quick, inexpensive, and effective temporary storage solution.
Name: T. Ashley McGrew
Institution: Cantor Art Center at Stanford University
Collection Type: Dimensional Art /seismic restraints
Abstract: Working in a seismic zone, we have to take steps to keep a potential geological event from becoming a disaster for our collection. Presented are two systems we use for restraining 3D objects on shelving in collection storage. In both applications the designs focus on ease of use to help insure compliance with established storage protocols. We utilized 1” nylon webbing for strength in both small and large object storage solutions. Small object storage pairs the webbing with ¼” polyethylene netting which is secured using plastic snap buckles. In large object storage the webbing is sewn together to make “cargo netting” which is secured with carbineers, either to the uprights of pallet racking, or to custom-made removable metal brackets designed for use on heavy-duty cantilever shelving.


Name: Jennifer Torres, Kate Gallagher & Sanchita Balachandran
Institution: Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum
Object/collection type: Small archaeological objects
Abstract: The Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum is a teaching museum that encourages the use of the collection for teaching, study, and research by faculty and students. Accessibility and visibility are both important factors in rehousing objects to serve these purposes. The collection contains thousands of small archaeological objects and limited storage space. A “file” storage system was developed to house these objects and to save space. This storage design is best suited for robust objects, particularly Egyptian faience amulets and small Greco-Roman metal objects that would be difficult to access and would consume too much storage space with traditional rehousing methods. Objects are placed in polyethylene zip bags lined with Volara and tied to a piece of corrugated blue board of standard size using twill tape. Each object/board is then “filed” into a custom-made box that fits in our storage drawers. The backside of each board is lined with thin Ethafoam to mitigate damage to the object behind it. This storage method allows for maximum visibility and accessibility, and minimizes the unnecessary handling of the object and disturbance of other objects that are not pertinent to the study or research at hand.
Name: Emily Wroczynski
Institution/Affiliation/Title: Shelburne Museum
Object/Collection Type: Wooden artifacts, Bird Decoys
Abstract: The Dorset House at the Shelburne Museum is currently undergoing renovations funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The historic structure has been the exhibition space for the Museum’s expansive bird decoy collection. The conservation department is taking this opportunity to examine the decoy collection and perform needed treatment before it returns to display. The installation within the renovated Dorset House has not been finalized, and the decoys will continue to be housed in storage for about another year. A versatile mount (similar to a sink mat) was designed in discussion with the curator, which would function in storage and could easily transition for exhibition in Dorset. The exciting challenge of this project was to create a footprint that did not greatly alter the aesthetic profile of the object, while at the same time provided ample support. The curator’s input was instrumental in choosing a method of covering the mount that made it polished without a complex technique or expensive materials.
Name(s): Emily Eifert Brown
Institution: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Collection Type: shells, travel/storage mount
Abstract: A complex storage housing was built for an oyster shell presented in a delicate gold and silver gilt mount, which is in the collection of the Walters Art Museum.  The housing served three important functions: the ability to safely hand-carry the object from Winterthur, Delaware to Baltimore, Maryland; the ability to safely and efficiently store the object while disassembled in multiple parts; and the ability to scavenge for airborne pollutants, thus preventing tarnishing of the delicate and difficult to clean metal components.  The streamlined design took into account storage space restrictions and materials specifications required by the Walters Art Museum.  Design features of the housing include a shelf within the main box, blue board inserts upholstered in Pacific Silvercloth, and buried rare earth magnet closures.
Name(s): Kesha Talbert, Pam Young and Lauren Gottschlich
Institution: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Collection Type: Handheld Fans
Abstract: Conservators and interns at Colonial Williamsburg have been creating dual purpose storage and display mounts for folding handheld fans which are part of the costume and textile collections. The fans are composite objects of wood, ivory, paper, textiles and/or metal with unique risk factors for study or display due to their function of folding and unfolding. In an effort to decrease handling and the associated friction and movement of components supportive mounts have been created to house the fans in storage which are also acceptable for display. The mounts are custom made for each fan to provide adequate support for both leaf and sticks. Archival products including Alpharag matboard, folderstock, ethafoam and sueded polyethylene were used in the creation of the mounts. A step-by-step guide was created to allow future interns to easily replicate the process.
Name(s): Stephanie Gowler, Graham Patten, Carlynne Robinson and Susan Russick
Institution: Northwestern University Library Preservation and Conservation Work Group
Collection Type: Archival
Abstract: Project Description: The Charlotte Moorman collection at Northwestern University Libraries is the core of a major exhibit at Northwestern’s Block Museum, soon to travel to NYU’s Grey Art Gallery and on to the Museum der Moderne, Salzburg.  Because much of this unwieldy archive of Avant Garde art from the 1960s had never been fully processed, we wanted to develop an exhibit mount that could also be used for travel and storage.  One solution that worked for several objects was sewing the objects onto padded boards.  Boards were constructed of Tycore, Volara and cloth.  Objects were sewn on using a variety of threads – a delicate process that could require 3 conservators.  Mounts allowed for easy handling and installation as well as security for the multi-part objects at each venue. Ethafoam®, corrugated blue board, and Hollytex® quilts were used to pad and clamp the boards inside of boxes for travel. Many of the objects will eventually be stored, mounted, in their travel boxes.
Contributor(s): William Bennett
Institution: Smithsonian Institution Archives
Collection Type: Photographs
Abstract: The Archives recently received an early gelatin print which is mounted on a friable, acidic board. The brittle ensemble has cracked completely in half, with small pieces flaking away from the breakage point. There is also damage evident on the lower portion of the photograph, possibly from blocking. The top and bottom edges of the photograph and support are also curling upward due to differences in expansion and contraction of the two materials. A custom housing was designed and created, and is composed of three elements—a base in which the photograph sits, a magnetic over-mat that gently restrains the curling edges of the image, and a protective cover mat. The base is also composed of three layers, divided into two pieces that fit together like puzzle pieces with tongue-and-groove joints. This solution provided adequate support to the broken photograph; facilitated easy removal of the image from its housing without abrading the edges, by sliding the pieces of the base apart; and restrained the curling edges of the support. The cover mat may also be folded completely behind the base and is thus suitable for display.
Name: Liz Peirce
Institution/Affiliation/Title: Winterthur Museum and Garden, Kress Conservation Fellow
Object/Collection Type: Hough’s American Woods – 14 Volume set, 1888 edition
Abstract: Hough’s American Woods is a rare collection of thin sliced wood samples suspended in heavy cardstock pages. These pages are currently stored as a loose block within a three-quarter wrap cover slid into a slipcover held closed with a decorative clasp. The loose pages make removal for study difficult, cumbersome, and potentially damaging to the delicate samples. To remove the block, the pages must be grasped and compressed to slide out of the case. Damage to the pages has already been noted; several samples within each volume suffer from cracks and losses due to improper handling and storage. Rehousing for this collection (starting in February 2016) will provide stability and support for the samples. It will include a four-flap wrapper with both a warning to researchers about the unbound nature of the samples as well as handling instructions to prevent further damage. Once wrapped, the volumes will be stored in individual clamshell boxes which will support the block on all sides and prevent shifting. The original wrap and slipcase will be preserved and all relevant information on the book plates will be scanned, copied, and kept with the new rehousing. Rehousing will make the collection easier to access for research as well as display within the library should exhibition be desired.


Name(s): Alicia Ghadban
Institution: Re-ORG, former CCI and ICCROM Intern
Collection Type: Various
Abstract: The RE-ORG methodology was developed by ICCROM with the support of UNESCO to assist smaller museums (under 10,000 objects) who do not have access to external expertise and whose collections are at serious risk due to overcrowding and poor storage conditions. In September 2015, ICCROM held an international RE-ORG workshop in partnership with the Chinese State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) and the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage (CACH). The workshop was hosted by the Wuhou Shrine Museum (Chengdu, China) and allowed participants to gain practical experience implementing a RE-ORG project. The host museum presented an ideal case study for the RE-ORG project as objects could be found directly on the floor, collection and non-collection items were stored in the same rooms, sub-collections were displaced in various rooms, and part of the ceramic collection had been stored on unsecured wooden shelves though the museum was located in an earthquake prone region. This presentation will outline the solutions devised and accepted by staff members of the Wuhou Shrine Museum as they lowered the risk to collections and provided improved working conditions for museum staff members. The solutions included the following: adaptation of metal shelving units, reuse of existing furniture, relocating and grouping sub-collections, removing non-collection items from the storage, and ensuring no objects were on the floor by utilizing platforms on wheels.

Name(s): Gretchen Anderson, Linsly Church, Amy Henrici
Institution: Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Collection Type: Oversize collections, Vertebrate Paleontology
Abstract: Keeping dust off of specimens in open storage is always a challenge, particularly in an old building in an urban environment.  In 2014 the Carnegie Museum of Natural History received a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services to improve storage conditions for type specimens in the vertebrate paleontology collection. Some of these specimens are large slabs embedded in plaster with wood frames.  These are very heavy and difficult for scientists to access.  In the past the specimens were covered with plastic sheeting in a wood frame to protect them from water drips and dust.  Through time the deteriorating, opaque plastic made the specimens impossible to view without removing the cover. Our new method uses a polyester film window in a rigid box lid, to improve visibility of even the largest and heaviest blocks.  With a slight modification, the method is easily adapted for three dimensional models or objects.
Name(s): Gretchen Anderson, Deborah Harding, Lesley Haines
Institution: Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Collection Type: Oversize collections, large items
Abstract: Protecting large and irregularly shaped objects from dust, water and other environmental conditions that put them at risk is a challenge. Large and awkward objects are often stuck in corners or on top of cabinets and draped with plastic sheeting. The sheeting is often in direct contact with the object. As the sheeting ages, it deteriorates, becoming brittle and chemically unstable, causing additional damage to the object. At the Science Museum of Minnesota Anderson and Newberry developed an inexpensive and easy to construct a support for dust covers using PVC pipe, corrugated plastic sheet. The support prevents the dust cover from touching the object, allows for airflow and reduces other risks. New materials such as Tyvek™ can be is used to replace plastic. Anderson continues to adapt the system at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History where the Anthropology Department is using it for large objects.
Name: Erika Range
Institution/Affiliation/Title: Conservation Student (previous CMN Intern)
Object/collection type:  Natural History Labeling
Abstract: Choosing the right substrate, attachment method, inks and printing technologies are critical to ensuring that the information remains intact and associated with an artifact or specimen.  In natural history collections, labels often contain original data not found elsewhere, so their preservation is as important as the specimens. The Canadian Museum of Nature houses over 10 million specimens requiring a vast variety of labeling methods.  A recent survey at the Canadian Museum of Nature revealed three types of labels typically used in natural history collections, and also attempted to adapt standards to help clarify to collections staff what to buy and how to use it, as they adopt new technologies for labeling.  Three ‘Decision Trees’ were created to guide collections and conservation staff and volunteers with choosing the right tool for the right job, and highlights standards and best practices for materials in archives and some simple tests for quality control.