Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Moving the Collections, Part I

Visitors may notice that parts of the museum are looking somewhat sparse as of late. The model ships have set sail, the Haseltine horses gracing our stairwell have trod off to different pastures, and the massive sculptures gracing our courtyard outside have now left. But this is nothing compared to the emptiness of our art storage areas. The main phase of our collections move to our temporary off site storage space is now nearly complete.

The ships, as our Blog Addison readers know, were first, starting in March. The packing crew then moved into our art storage areas. Behind closed doors, we proceeded to pack and ship out over 15,000 objects over the following two and a half months. I lost track at some point, but we used hundreds of 4 x 8 foot sheets of cardboard, thousands of archival plastic bags of various sizes, many miles worth of packing tape and seemingly enough bubble wrap to cover a fair amount of Phillips Academy's Great Lawn. This resulted in rooms now filled with empty, dismantled storage bins, racks, and screens that produce a reverberating echo when you speak(see left).

Once the storage areas were cleared, we moved outside to tackle the three large sculptures sitting in the exact area where our new addition will be built. Our Frank Stella, Mont Saint Quentin, easily the heaviest object in our collection, was carefully loaded onto a flatbed truck using a forklift (see right). Once it was strapped down and joined by its fellow courtyard dwellers, the truck pulled away from a very empty courtyard area. I can only imagine what passing drivers thought when they saw the mangled metal form of the Stella on the back of the truck as it made its way to our off site storage area.

Regardless of the physical challenges involved in moving the collection, there was a whole other extremely important side to this project: inventory. Every object that left here was labeled (see left), marked down as having been packed, marked down again as it was loaded into the truck, and marked down once more as it was located in the off site storage area. A considerable amount of paper was produced to track everything and a considerable amount of time was spent just updating object locations on our database. Systems were in place to make this proceed as smoothly as possible, but it was definitely the one aspect of this project that kept me up at nights more than any other.

So where did it all go? Stay tuned to Blog Addison for a future post exploring the Indiana Jones-like warehouse where our objects are now safely stored until their eventual, triumphant return to the Addison in 2010...

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives

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