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Art Storage and the Deaccessioning Controversy

Art Storage and the Deaccessioning Controversy

As any museum director will tell you, deaccessioning is not quite as simple as cleaning out one’s closets and holding a yard sale. Museums as a whole have a mission to acquire, conserve, and exhibit collections for the benefit of their communities. Reducing the number of artworks or artifacts seems almost antithetical. The decision to sell some of the objects in a museum’s collection is a complex one; condition, authenticity, redundancy, and donor restrictions are just a few of the factors in deciding to deaccess, particularly when an object is one that ought to remain available to the public.

The pressure to downsize can sometimes stem from the impossibility of exhibiting the full scope of a museum’s collections. Michael O’Hare, professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, estimates that as much as 90% of major museums’ collections are languishing in storage, never included in an exhibit seen by the public. He argues that unseen artworks have no real value. “Aside from maybe someday appearing in a scholarly article… just how are these works creating cultural value if no one is looking at them?” O’Hare asks.

Everyone agrees that museums exist, in large part, to exhibit their art and artifacts, but exhibit space is at a premium. Exhibits require sufficient space for each object to be appreciated on its own, and the size of any exhibit is limited by the museum’s footprint. Adding to the spatial challenge is the amount of space required for a museum’s storage. Sometimes a large percentage of a museum’s total area has to be devoted to the safe and secure storage of its unique collections.

And that storage space might in fact be the place where additional exhibit space can be found. Well-designed high density storage systems can condense a storage footprint by as much as 80%. Compact shelving and racking systems eliminate fixed aisles and adjust to accommodate the wide variety of shapes and sizes of collected objects. By clawing back some inefficiently-used storage space, museums can find themselves with room to expand their exhibits.

With the ability to display more of their collections, museums are better able to fulfill their mission. Deaccessioning, as defined by the Association of Art Museum Directors, will always be part of managing a museum’s collection. But with efficiently-used storage space, more works can be retained and displayed for the education and enjoyment of the public.


Photo © JackF / AdobeStock

More Than Just Books: The Librarian’s Challenge

More Than Just Books: The Librarian’s Challenge

In honor of World Book Day, Twitter hosted a curated collection of beautiful photo images of libraries around the world. These architectural gems are inspirational examples of design, paying homage to the written word even in the midst of the Digital Age. If you look closely at the photographs, however, it becomes apparent that the shelves are very crowded. Book publishers are printing more books than ever, and librarians are hard-pressed to house their collections.

Adding to the challenge is the changing nature of the library itself. No longer are libraries just a place to check out books or do research. More and more, they are centers for community activities, providing space for everything from internet cafes to classrooms to yoga studios. Flexible space utilization is a must, and librarians are constantly juggling the multiple demands of book space and activity space, without the option of increasing the building’s footprint.

However, storage technology is coming to the rescue, reports Audrey Barbakoff in Library Journal. Creative products condense collections in a number of ways:

  1. High-density shelving systems increase storage space while reducing the storage footprint, and the finishes can be customized to suit a library’s design aesthetic.
  2. Powered by AS/RS, “book bots” operate in floor-to-ceiling shelving spaces with narrow aisles too small for humans. They are entertaining for library patrons to watch, and have the added benefit of eliminating safety concerns about ladders and overhead lifting.
  3. Shared storage spreads the cost of storage space and inventory management among several libraries, as well as letting them share the contents of their collections and reduce excess duplicates.

Adaptive furnishings such as Swiftspace workstations can also boost libraries’ flexible space utilization, shifting from study carrel to collaborative workstation to small conference area. These workstations let libraries reconfigure their space for a variety of needs, and they fold up for compact storage.

The mission of librarians is “to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities,” according to library expert David Lankes. With the support of the right furnishing and storage systems, librarians can turn their attention to their primary mission.


Photo © deberrar / Adobe Stock