Abstracts for STASHc Flash IV Storage Tips session – May 29, 2017 at the AIC Annual Meeting

The 2017 STASH Flash storage tips session at the Chicago annual meeting will have three themes:

  1. Building on the conference theme Innovation in Conservation and Collection Care, the first group of presentations offer solutions that eliminate the need for treatment or complement an interventive treatment.
  2. The second group of presentations are supports that that serve more than one purpose such as storage, transport, and/or exhibition.
  3. Group three presentations focus on supports that can be mass produced to deal with collection-wide storage issues  as well as other novel ideas.

Presentations will be posted on the STASHc solutions pages after the meeting.

Group 1

Presenter(s): Clara Deck
Affiliation: The Henry Ford Museum
Collection type: Edison Diamond Disc Records
Abstract: THF counts among its wide-ranging collections a nearly complete run of the Edison Diamond Disc recordings, produced by Thomas A. Edison, Inc. from 1912 to 1929.  Played with a diamond stylus, these records are ¼” thick and made of a Bakelite-type plastic over a wood-pulp core. This collection is cataloged in over 6500 entries, which includes the 6000 discs. Most came directly to THF from the Edison factory in West Orange, NJ and are generally in excellent condition.  However, they are housed in their original acidic, wood-pulp paper jackets, which have become brittle over time. Some of the jackets bear unique printed information.  Handling closely-packed records in their original jackets causes damage. THF conservators worked with vendor Hollinger Metal-Edge to develop a custom-made preservation sleeve that will safely store the thicker-than-normal discs, as well as a “jacket-sling” to re-house the original record jacket. Some assembly is required.

Presenter(s): Basia Nosek and Susan Russick
Affiliation: Northwestern University Libraries
Collection type: Glass Plate Negatives
Abstract: Photographic materials on glass supports are prone to cracking, braking, and flaking emulsion. With large collections, treatment may not always be an option. For this reason, proper housing and implementation of preventive conservation methods is the only viable solution to prolong the longevity of the collections. While the National Archives’ recommendation of housing negatives individually in paper sleeves sounds straightforward, non-standard sizes, broken plates, and the need to maintain association with original envelope enclosures or groupings can complicate the process. By filling-in the negative space of standard four-flap enclosures we were able to accommodate different sizes and broken glass plates. Additionally, this method allowed us to keep all of the collection materials in standard size boxes. Ties and dividers were used to help indicate association of subsets of objects, keep items in order, and distinguish original housing groups. Lining boxes with foam and using corrugated board spacers added additional protection.

Presenter(s): Emilie Duncan
Affiliation: Graduate Fellow at Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation
Collection type: library/bound materials
Abstract: The separation of book spines from books, whether through natural deterioration or through treatment intervention, is commonly encountered in collections containing bound materials. Oftentimes – especially if the spine is leather – the replacement of the spine on the book is impractical or unsafe, as it can cause significantly more damage through continued use. As a result, there is a need for a storage solution that allows separated spines to be stored with their books. This can be achieved by modifying the design for a clamshell box to add a compartment to hold the spine. The compartment is located at the spine of the book, and has a Vivak window, allowing the leather spine to be visible while the box is closed and shelved. Not only is the spine material protected from the physical strains of being reattached to the book or flattened for traditional storage methods, but it remains intellectually and visually connected to the book from which it has physically been separated.

Presenter(s): Skyler Jenkins
Affiliation: Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona
Collection type: Ethnographic and Archaeological
Abstract: The Arizona State Museum (ASM) basketry collection became an official project of the Save America’s Treasures (SAT) program in 2011. Known as the Woven Wonders: Basketry Project, this effort addressed the need for new environmentally controlled, secure, unified space for over 35,000 catalogued items. Treatment protocols have been developed, approved, executed, and refined with funding from two IMLS awards. ASM’s five plus year long basketry project had many new treatment and storage techniques that evolved through collaborative treatment. Among these innovative ideas, an internal storage support for more flexible basketry material emerged. This allowed flexible baskets to be treated more easily, to be handled without damage, and to reduce the required space for storage. This session will explore the various types of internal supports created to be an alternative to unnecessarily large external supports, and to assist those who cannot expand their storage space.

Presenter(s):  Gretchen Anderson
Affiliation:  Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Collection type: Saddles
Abstract: Saddles are large and awkward to store.  They are often set on shelves or placed on sawhorses that are padded out with polyethylene foam.  Plastic sheeting is draped over them to protect them from dust and potential water drips.  The sawhorses take up a large foot print in a crowded storage room, and the legs are a tripping hazard. The sawhorses get moved around, creating additional risks for bumping and dropping the saddle.  This article describes a practical method to store saddles, improving support, maximizing space use, and generally protecting them in a cleaner and more efficient manner.  This system is primarily for long term storage, but can be adapted for display or for transport. The basic mounting system currently being used at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History will be detailed.  Refinements from the Science Museum of Minnesota will be described as well.

Group 2

Presenter(s): Connie Stromberg and Lara Kaplan
Affiliation: Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Contract Objects Conservators (for Inaugural Exhibitions). Stromberg Conservation, LLC and Lara Kaplan Objects Conservation, LLC
Collection type: 369th Hellfighters Gas Mask and Canister, Historical Artifact
Abstract: This gas mask is part of the field equipment worn during WWI by a soldier in the 369th Infantry, an African-American regiment known as the Harlem Hellfighters. It consists of a canvas mask with glass eye pieces connected to a painted steel canister by a collapsible hose. The object was in very poor condition: the mask was extremely fragile with many tears; the hose had ripped loose from the mask, and was deteriorated, deformed, and splitting at the seams; and the canister was rusting and had lost about half of its paint. Slated to go on view in the inaugural exhibition of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, creative collaboration among conservators, mount makers, and curators was necessary to successfully treat and permanently support the mask for its safe display, transport, and storage.

Presenter(s): Rebecca Beyth
Affiliation: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Collection type: 3-D Object Collections
Abstract: In 2016, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum built a new off-site collections and conservation center to house its collections. The relocation from a previous off-site facility was critical to the museum’s preservation mission, and improved its storage, research and transportation capacity. Rehousing was necessary to safely transport many of the 3-D objects. An initial survey determined which 3-D objects required specialized housing. Staff used four common methods to house 3-D objects based on their material, size, shape and condition:

  1. Secure 3-D object to a tray, which could be removed from the box.
  2. Secure 3-D object directly into the box with ties.
  3. Secure 3-D object in the box using a shaped bumper, which is held in place by the box lid.
  4. Cavity pack 3-D object in the box.

Using these methods (with modifications as needed) the team successfully rehoused approximately two-thirds of the 3-D object collections, including all items classified as high-priority due to their material or condition.

Presenter(s): Vasarė Rastonis
Affiliation: Columbia University Libraries
Collection type: oracle bone enclosures
Abstract: Columbia University’s C.V.Starr East Asian Library contains one hundred and twenty eight oracle bones. These are the library’s oldest documents, some of which are dated as early as 1554 BCE. The bones had been stored in roughly two different manners; the first group of sixty three bones was enclosed in plexiglass sleeves with board inserts, and the second group of sixty five was housed in a variety of boxes and cardboard trays. In the Autumn of 2015 the storage methods were reviewed and revised with the assistance of Eugenie Milroy of A.M. Art Conservation. Upon consideration it was determined that the plexiglass enclosures of the first group were almost ideal and could be used with a few modifications and that the second group would be enclosed in a set of prefabricated boxes fitted with Volara® foam and Tyvek®. Although the two types of storage systems are quite different from one another, not only in their appearance but also in the amount of time needed to prepare them, they both achieve the desired goal of safely storing the oracle bone collection.

Presenter(s): Annie Hall
Affiliation: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Collection type: Product Design and Decorative Arts – smaller objects
Abstract: Cooper Hewitt’s recent mass digitization rapid capture project required the development of object support systems to safely and efficiently move over 30,000 objects from storage to the photographic stage and back to storage. A team of contract art handlers were hired by the mass digitization company and Cooper Hewitt staff were required to provide guidance and ensure handling protocols were in place. Systems for movement of object types were developed so the team could safely and efficiently move objects for each object category within the given time. A modular bin system with movable dividers was devised for smaller fragile objects such as glass and ceramics. Custom-sized cavities lined with Volara were constructed for each object and a previously designed object storage support system was modified to ensure objects were fully supported during the short trip to photography and back to storage.

Presenter(s):  Jakki Godfrey, Lisa Bruno, Carol Lee Shen
Affiliation:  Brooklyn Museum
Collection type: Ancient Egyptian Objects (but could be for any varied object collection)
Abstract:  From 2008-2012, 127 of the Brooklyn Museum’s ancient Egyptian objects traveled on a 12-venue loan exhibition.  To minimize handling, many objects were mounted to Medex boards or plinths for both transport and display. Boards and plinths were either coated in Zinsser® Shieldz® primer sealer, painted and padded out with polyethylene foam or covered with Marvelseal 360, padded out with polyethylene foam and/or polyester batting and covered in fabric.  Objects meant for vertical display included hanging hardware on the back of the transport/display board. Plinths used to display large heavy objects were furnished with handling access to fork lift or gantry in place. Many objects held up well during the exhibition tour; however some very fragile objects such as the Museum’s animal mummies suffered some damage. Methods for traveling these fragile objects has since been modified.

Group 3

Presenter(s): Hildegard Heine and JP Brown
Affiliation: The Field Museum, Chicago, IL
Collection type: Housings for lightweight oversize organic objects
Abstract: This presentation discusses a modular framing system that we adapted to make supports for fragile, oversize (and occasionally poisonous) organic objects from world cultures, especially oversize masks in the Pacific. Although the no ‘one size fits all’ approach is possible for these objects, we developed a housing design that can be customized to several different object geometries. The main construction material is lightweight, square-section aluminum structural framing tube. Polyethylene or Mylar sheet is stretched over the framing, providing a barrier to prevent loss of loose material and to mitigate against dust deposition, air currents, and damage during handling and transport.  The framing can also easily be modified to include bottom, top or side panels. A reversible flap sealed with a magnetic strip provides access for one side of the housing to allow for access. Handles attached to the framing permit easy transport of the entire structure. This modular framing system based on standard materials suits a wide range of object types and allows for flexibility in designing supports for specific object needs.

Presenter(s): Kate Wight Tyler
Affiliation: Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
Collection type: Modular Support System for Decorative Arts Objects on Compact Shelving
Abstract: A reproducible storage system consisting of support components in standardized shapes and sizes was developed to respond to targeted collection-based needs at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. Primary stability issues were first identified and categorized and support components were designed and manufactured to:

  • Stabilize vulnerable objects on mobile and static shelving
  • Economize shelf space
  • Promote visibility and access
  • Provide a mechanism for safe object handling
  • Economize supplies and resources
  • Encourage sustainability through re-use

The most useful and innovative designs were:

  • Circular Tyvek pillows filled with a mixture of polypropylene pellets and glass beads for weight
  • Accordion-fold divider system that was designed to efficiently re-house boxes of flatware (but could work well for other objects of similar size/shape – hairpins, fans, pens etc.) and was mass produced by Talas using their archival board.

A detailed description (including patterns and designs) for components and all materials and sources will be included.

Presenter(s): Louise Stewart Beck
Affiliation: The Henry Ford Museum
Collection type: Electrical objects; Scientific & Industrial Collection
Abstract: Thanks to a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, we are currently rehousing a collection of electrical artifacts. As we go through the process of removal from storage, conservation, digitization, and packing for transport and storage, we have encountered objects that present interesting packing challenges. These include objects without a stable resting position, extremely dense and heavy objects, and hazardous objects. Our presentation will demonstrate the materials and methods we have used to solve these issues, including ‘scaffolding’ for unstable objects and the accommodations that we have made for the high total weights that we are dealing with when palletizing. In addition, our conservation department frequently receives queries on the movement of this type of material from smaller institutions, and in response to that we have begun to work on a series of handling and packing videos that address scientific and industrial collections, including this project. Our presentation will include brief clips from that undertaking as well.

Presenter: Ben Fino-Radin
Affiliation: Associate Media Conservator, The Museum of Modern Art
Collection type: Digital Materials in Time-based Media Art Collections
Abstract: At many institutions and collections, increasingly, conservators of objects, paintings, prints, and photographs are tasked with the new and added responsibility of stewarding and defining the storage conditions for collections of time-based media art.  No matter how small the collection, the storage needs of the digital components of time-based media artworks, has ushered in the need for a wholly new set of vocabulary and skills and understanding in order to employ proper digital housing for transportation and transmission, and in order to collaborate with experts to specify a proper storage environment.  This lightning round will offer tips on the fundamental concepts and vocabulary needed in order to approach the housing and storage of digital materials in collections that include time-based media art.