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Subject: Visible storage

Visible storage

From: Vivien Chapman <vivienandcats<-at->
Date: Monday, February 1, 2016
Alicia M. Bjornson <ambjornson<-at->me<.>com> writes

>... The gist of the
>story is can you turn storage into an exhibition.  Really an
>important discussion for institutions whose bulk of their collection
>are not seen.  I'd be curious to see how insurance and risk
>management view this shift of ideology.  When storage is visible do
>we compromise security or is security improved because objects are
>visible

We thought carefully about this when planning new storage at
National Museums Liverpool some years ago.  Our curatorial staff
were very keen on the idea and we all supported the public seeing as
much of the collections as possible, but there are difficulties, and
it certainly doesn't solve storage problems.

It seems to me that it is better to describe these projects as dense
display rather than visible storage, and the images in the the
article cited illustrate this.  You need a lot of space--perhaps
5-10 times as much space per object compared with high density
storage--because you need wider aisleways for public access, and
because you can't box and stack, or take your storage very high, if
small items are to be seen.

You need a lot of money, for display cases for objects which should
not be touched, vandalised or stolen.  Some of the collections
illustrated look a little vulnerable, e.g. Larco Museum, Lima, Peru,
Rietberg Museum, Zurich, Switzerland.There are light exposure and
environmental control issues as well, of course.

In discussion with curators we found that they expected every object
would be in displayable condition which means a lot of conservator
time.  Interpretation is often limited to catalogue entries accessed
by computer.  This works better for well informed visitors with
specific interests.

We concluded large robust objects, e.g. land transport, boats,
machinery, were the easiest starting point--they don't need display
cases or low light levels, and you don't lose much space because
they already need lots of space round them (e.g. National Railway
Museum, York).  The next step, if we had had the space and funding,
would have been variations on glass fronted cabinets and drawers,
much like some of the other examples illustrated.

See

    <URL:http://www.natsca.org/sites/default/files/publications/NSCG%20Newsletter%20Issue%209-13.pdf>

Vivien Chapman
(retired conservator, previously National Museums Liverpool)


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