As a component of Cooper-Hewitt’s renovation and expansion of  the Carnegie Mansion galleries, the Museum’s collection of 217,000 objects has been moved to an off-site facility, which includes collections storage areas, an objects conservation lab, and a photography studio. This past month, the staff of Cooper-Hewitt rounded another major milestone of this multi-year, multi-faceted project with the completion of the off-site move of approximately 700 objects from temporary space into permanent collection storage areas. At the same time, Museum staff reorganized existing storage and work rooms in order to make the most efficient use of the off-site storage space. Through this process, the entire collection is now safely housed and accessible for curatorial and other collection based research.

The temporary space, before the final collection move.

The temporary space, empty, after moving the collections.

Planning for the collections move involved a number of specialists working together in close communication. As part of this move, Cooper-Hewitt acquired an additional 1,613 square feet of storage space. The Head of Conservation contracted an architectural firm experienced with the unique needs of museum projects, to consult on space planning and to design the new storage lay out. This included working with storage shelving manufacturers to develop the most space efficient solutions while addressing the needs of the varied types of objects being stored. Collaborating with curators, conservators and registrars, the architects determined specific locations for collection objects in the new and repurposed spaces.

The new storage space, empty.

The new storage space, after moving collections into the area.

Once the plan was in place, the museum team worked to streamline the reality of getting the collection into place, which involved moving some very large, fragile, and complex objects. The first step was to order and construct the new storage shelving, according to the architects’ plan; additional specially designed object supports and housings were included so the whole collection—small, large, robust, and fragile—could be safely relocated. A team of specially trained art handlers then worked under the supervision of the Associate Registrar to move each object to its newly designated space in permanent storage. The Registrar team consulted with the Senior Objects Conservator who advised and assisted with the move of especially fragile and awkward objects, designed specialized platforms and constructed storage boxes and structural supports for the most fragile objects.  The registrars and technicians took note of where each object was placed, so that the collection inventory would not be disturbed. After eight month’s hard work by everyone in the Collections Division, the Museum is ready to celebrate the conclusion of this project, the last phase of moving the collection into the off-site facility.

Art handlers, registrars, and conservator work together to move a heavy, fragile object.

The object in its new storage location.

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