TSG Chapter VIII. Storage of Textiles: Issues and Methods Textile Conservators Face when Planning for Textile Storage - Section A. Institutional Concerns for Textile Storage Areas

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Contributors: Originally drafted by Dorothy Alig, Theresa Heard, and Gwen Spicer, April 2, 1998. Contributions from: Susan Adler, Deborah Bede, Alicia Bjornson, Canadian Conservation Institute, Lucy Commoner, Judith Eisenberg, Patricia Ewer, Lorna Filippini, Joy Gardiner, Martha Grimm, Robin Hanson, Susan Heald, T. Rose Holdcraft, Jane Hutchins, Claudia P. Iannuccilli, Marlene Jaffe, Mary Kaldany, Kennis Kirby, Teresa Knutson, Susan Mathisen, Zoe Annis Perkins, Betty Seifert, Textile Conservation Laboratory, and R. Scott Williams
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Institutional Concerns for Textile Storage Areas


Purpose

Well-designed storage prolongs the life of all artifacts. It can offer protection from light, dust and dirt, airborne pollutants, insects, and short, abrupt changes in relative humidity and temperature. In addition, it contributes to security and aids in the organization of the collections and retrieval of any artifact, thereby minimizing handling and maximizing accessibility.

Factors to Consider

When designing a storage system for a collection, considerations include institutional needs, the size and nature of the collections, projected growth of the collections, available staff and budget, location, and amount of space.

Placement of Storage Units Within the Physical Plant

  • Avoid using basements and attics for storage, if at all possible.
  • Storage areas should be located away from food areas (i.e., restaurants, kitchens, and areas where receptions may be held).
  • Avoid locating storage areas near areas in which a higher than normal amount of pollution is generated (such as workshops, laboratories, loading docks, garages, photocopying areas, or computer rooms).
  • Whenever possible, storage should not be in work spaces and should not be placed in areas of heavy traffic.
  • The load-bearing capacity of the floor must be adequate to support the fully-loaded storage units.
  • Storage areas should be separated from but accessible to the institution's loading dock or other freight entrance, as well as to wide corridors, elevators, artifact work rooms, and exhibition spaces.
  • Storage areas should have high, wide, sealable doors.
  • Within the storage area, storage units should be placed as far as possible from:
-Exterior walls, because of the potential for extreme changes in temperature and humidity;
-Water pipes, because of the potential for the pipes to burst or drip;
-Heat or air exchange units, because of airborne pollutants, dust, dirt, and changes in temperature; and
-Motors or other sources of constant low-level vibration, because of potential artifact damage from the cumulative effect of the vibrations.
  • Aisles should be wide enough to allow for safe passage of artifacts, equipment, and staff.
  • For new construction, adhere to "green" (environmentally safe) architectural standards to reduce levels of potentially damaging volatile organic compounds and formaldehyde.

Issues of Security and Access

  • Closing and optional locking mechanisms should be provided in storage units.
  • Access requirements for each section of the collection should be considered.
  • Methods of accommodating and monitoring visitors, scholars, researchers, and staff in storage areas should be considered.

Lighting

  • Low UV, low heat, and low footcandle lighting is preferable.
  • Reflected light (white ceilings and/or walls) is ideal.
  • The ability to selectively illuminate sections of the room is desirable.
  • Lighting should be set up so that the storage area can be kept totally dark when there is no one in it

Design/Layout

  • The storage system should facilitate the removal and replacement of objects for study and exhibition.
  • A holding area for new acquisitions and loans–physically separated from the main storage area–is recommended.

Fire/Theft Protection

  • Systems should be provided to detect fire and intrusion in the storage areas.
  • A fire suppression system may also be desirable.

Water detection

A water detection system may also be desirable.

Further Reading

Bachmann, K., ed. 1992. Conservation concerns. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.
Baril, P. 1997. Technical bulletin no. 18: Fire prevention programs for museums. Ottawa: Canadian Conservation Institute.
Hilberry, J. D., and S.K. Weinberg. 1981. Museum collections storage: Part 1. Museum news, Mar/Apr: 7–21.
Hilberry, J. D., and S.K. Weinberg. 1981. Museum collections storage: Part 2. Museum news, May/Jun:5–23.
Hilberry, J. D., and S.K. Weinberg. 1981. Museum collections storage: Part 3. Museum news, Jul/Aug:49–60.
Johnson, E.V. and J.C. Horgan. 1978. Museums collection storage. Paris: UNESCO.



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