Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Week in the Life of Our Storage Facility

Doug Kendall, Curator of Collections

Those of you who follow this blog already know that winter is anything but a slow time in the Museum, even though we are closed to the public. The curatorial staff is busy preparing the 2011 exhibitions for the April 1 opening and getting ready to send the Thaw Collection traveling exhibition to its next venue at the Dallas Museum of Art, among other activities.

One might imagine that the storage facility for Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum at least would be peaceful; after all, this is where the vast majority of the artifacts not on exhibition are kept. The very word “storage” suggests a lack of activity.

Exterior, Iroquois Storage Facility, February 2011

The storage facility is located in a former thoroughbred horse stable and from the outside it look relatively unchanged. Perhaps because the storage facility is two miles away from the museum campus, even our staff often thinks this is a quiet backwater.

Nothing could be farther from the truth and this week the building was especially busy.

Because we co-sponsor the Cooperstown Graduate Program in museum studies, students spend a lot of time here examining and writing about objects in the collections. In addition, at least two classes are held at the facility every week during the semester, in a classroom that originally served as the stable’s tack room. Because the graduate program emphasizes hands-on study, we move objects into the classroom for each session. On Tuesday of this week, we set up for Wednesday’s Collections Care class for first-year graduate students. Wednesday morning, conservators C.R. and Sue Jones covered the care of historic photographs and paper objects; after a brief break, I talked about care of ceramics and glass in museum collections.

Ready for Furniture class, February 17, 2011

Caring for Photographs, February 16, 2011

While Assistant Curator of Collections, John Hart, and student assistant Amy Drake switched out those objects for the furniture that would be needed for Thursday’s class, Assistant Professor Will Walker held a session of his American Cultures II seminar in the upstairs collections area Wednesday afternoon. Will’s class examined items in the Museum’s Kopp Collection, which consists of advertising and other popular culture images of Native Americans. Thursday, Associate Professor of Material Culture Cindy Falk and the first-years studied wooden furniture in the classroom.

American Cultures class, February 16, 2011

In addition to all of the academic activity in the building, the storage space in the lower level of the building is also being upgraded. New climate control equipment and better shelving is being installed. So while classes have been meeting upstairs, contractors and the Facilities staff have been busy in the basement. The result will be a much better environment for over 60,000 glass plate negatives stored here (including the Smith & Telfer Photographic Collection) as well as other museum and library collections.

Preparing the basement for new shelving, February 15, 2011

Next week, the graduate students have Winter Break, so it won’t be quite so busy. But I trust you get the idea—museum storage is neither quiet nor boring around here!

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