Planning for a collections upgrade project requires a combination of staff and institutional commitment, time, and patience. Planning, simply to write the NEH proposal, which was submitted in October 2005, began in 2002. The first crucial step was securing a Conservation Assessment Program (CAP) survey grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. These CAP grants enable museums to consult with architects and conservators to assess the current condition of collections and to help prioritize collection needs. Preservation assessments identify short and long range preservation objectives and make specific recommendations about how to achieve these goals. They are the springboards to the next phases: project planning and proposal writing. After completion of the general preservation assessment survey, we inventoried the storage areas targeted for upgrades, conducted a pilot rehousing project to establish a standard methodology for rehousing certain collections, and consulted with a conservator regarding our proposed packing and rehousing methodologies. In addition, we conducted extensive background research on collection move projects, which involved attending conferences and seminars and visiting museums that recently completed storage upgrades.
Before we could begin consulting with museum storage furniture manufacturers and planning the project methodology, we needed to how much were moving and how much space the objects would require. We completed a comprehensive inventory of our ethnology storage area in May 2005 and established an approximate number of archaeological items by means of a volumetric assessment and survey of catalog records.
In spring 2005, a Beloit College anthropology, classical civilization, and museum studies student Anna Berg (nee Goodwin) `05 conducted a volumetric assessment of the non-climate controlled archaeology cage to determine whether the Collie storage room was large enough to accommodate all of the material from the cage. She analyzed the space and housing needs of the archaeological collections by examining each part of the collection’s size, significance, existing storage space and equipment, and potential for growth. We determined all of the collections would not fit in the Collie room and developed a plan that targeted certain collections for rehousing in the Collie room and others for rehousing in the museum’s visible storage Cube. After graduation, Anna was hired part-time to implement an archaeology rehousing pilot project. Two Delta Design, Inc. archaeology cabinets were purchased with existing funds and Anna spent the summer rehousing a portion of the collection in order to develop and refine the archaeology collections rehousing methodology.
Like many small museums and university museums, the Logan Museum does not have a conservator on staff. For this reason we contracted with a conservation consultant to conduct a site visit. During the site visit the conservator evaluated the museum’s preservation activities and reviewed and consulted about the NEH proposal methodology and standards. In addition, the conservation consultant was written into the proposal to conduct two site visits to evaluate practice and progress and to conduct staff training in packing and mount making.
The importance of consulting with museums that completed similar projects cannot be underestimated. Colleagues were eager to share what worked and what didn’t work. They offered ideas and solutions that were invaluable to our planning and proposal writing. The Science Museum of Minnesota’s Moving the Mountain: the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Guide to Moving Collections is a particularly valuable resource. An additional useful resource is the Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies. The Campbell Center provides professional development training in collections storage, computerization, preservation of various material types, and grant proposal writing.