Teach Me About Art Storage.
May 22, 2014 8:25 AM   Subscribe

My favorite part of museums these days are the visible storage units. My favorite part of natural history museums are old-fashioned drawers filled with air-tight cases. I want to know more about the history and practice of storing/preserving art objects, paintings, sculpture, textiles, etc. What books/websites should I be reading to find out more? The more weirdly medium specific and detailed the better. Strange anecdotes very much welcome.
posted by The Whelk to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology. Although it's mainly about the Museum of Jurassic Techonology, it has quite a bit on the history and development of museums.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:31 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads: The Culture and Evolution of Natural History Museums by Stephen T. Asma.
posted by Gygesringtone at 8:49 AM on May 22, 2014

Whoops.. read too fast, you specified art! In that case maybe The Art Detective- and actually Antiques Roadshow has a lot of odd objects and strange anecdotes. If you want insane detail on a specific conservation project, the Pyke Organ Clock blog is fascinating.
posted by Erasmouse at 8:57 AM on May 22, 2014

Wikipedia's page on Cabinet of Curiosities may give you some leads. I will find my copy of Stephen Jay Gould's "Dinosaur in a Haystack: Reflections on Natural History" and see whether its essay "Cabinet Museums: Alive, Alive, O!” has anything that might interest you.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:04 AM on May 22, 2014

There is a great, growing and expensive trend at museums to exhibit holdings publicly, funded in particular by the Luce Foundation, including at the Brooklyn Museum but also done incredibly well at the Smithsonian, which is a must-see.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:09 AM on May 22, 2014

On a side note, you may be interested in Joseph Cornell's boxes.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:26 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art has a warehouse with a lot of extra space they rent out for events. The neat thing is that after you enter, you go down a long windowed hallway that borders their art storage space. You can see the racks and crates and things, and they have some amazing art hung on the sides of the racks, casually. You know, to spruce the place up a bit.

The company Fine Art Shipping has a blog. Here's an interesting post: What is an art handler?
posted by hydrophonic at 9:40 AM on May 22, 2014

The New-York Historical Society is a gold mine for this kind of display.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:43 AM on May 22, 2014

Most big museums have blogs, by the way-- the V&A are blogging fiends, in particular, they have multiple archive and conservation blogs.
posted by Erasmouse at 9:47 AM on May 22, 2014

Dry Storeroom No. 1 is one of my favourite books! Anything by Richard Fortey is great, actually. I also loved hydroponic's suggestion, although it is more about installation/performance art that also happens to take the form of a museum(but the Museum of Jurassic Technology is one of my favourite places in the world).

For other books in my collection that I've enjoyed -
The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing
Windows on Nature: The Great Habitat Dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History
Dinosaurs in the Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History(similar to Dry Storeroom)
posted by sawdustbear at 9:48 AM on May 22, 2014

You can find some photos and examples on various blogs. Here are a couple: Registrar Trek, example post on political buttons, another ; Ellen Carrlee's blog is a good one.

Smithsonian Department of Anthropology on storing large objects, part 1, part 2. My favorite Smithsonian storage photo, more Smithsonian storage pics: 1, 2.

Crystalization Systems is one of the companies that does art storage, and has examples of 4 types in a photo gallery. Oversize flat storage would include textiles, and display storage cabinets show some of their visible storage units.
posted by gudrun at 12:15 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, my -- do you know about Conserveograms? According to the National Park Service, they are "short, focused leaflets about caring for museum objects." Tamper-Resistant Fasteners for Museum Exhibit Cases? Check. Using a Psychrometer to Measure Relative Humidity? That too. Storage Mounts for Feathered Headdresses and Soft-Sided Hats and Caps? Yes. And oh, so much more. Browse and enjoy (.pdf-heavy).
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:51 PM on May 22, 2014

Everything you need to know can be found in this book

Also check out this website.
posted by Jewel98 at 6:29 PM on May 22, 2014

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