Our first post is by guest blogger, Brittany Baksa, Collections Assistant at The Phillips Museum of Art and Museum Studies Graduate Student at Johns Hopkins University.
In Spring of 2009, contemporary artist, Bill Hutson donated close to 800 objects including personal art, ephemera, and works by other artists from his collection. Many of the works on paper came to the museum in cardboard portfolios stacked one on top of the other. This presents an issue in the safety of the artwork in preserving the long-term care for the object. My task as the collections assistant was to create a proper storage environment for these objects by following the proper museum standards in collections management policies.
According to Rebecca Buck in Museum Registration Methods 5th Ed 2010, each object entering the museum must be documented. Proper documentation includes photographing, measuring, composing precise condition reports and labeling. The collection should be stabilized for long-term preservation and housed in a proper storage environment that is regularly monitored (Buck 2010, p. 24).
I had the opportunity to work closely with a paper conservator in determining the best steps to take to complete the project. In order to begin the process of re-housing the works, it was managed in several stages. I first separated the works on paper from three-dimensional objects. The second stage was to sort the works by size and third by like media. The works on paper were placed in archival folders, with acid-free permabond paper interleaved between each piece. The folders were then placed into archival boxes that were numbered and given a location on a shelf in our storage area.
It took me a little over four months to complete the project as I came across some challenges along the way. I found in some instances I needed to photograph, measure and assign identification to works that were not properly documented. I learned for example, that friable material such as pastels and charcoals needed to be placed in a shallow box alone rather than interleaved with acid free paper like the other works on paper.
The organization of some 400 works on paper helped to bring this collection to stabilization ensuring that long-term preservation of these materials will be maintained. This is most important as to provide access to the collection while supporting the mission of the museum.