Careful storage and handling is key to the preservation of any museum collection. In this post, Christina Johnson discusses how garments, textiles and accessories can be harmed by inappropriate storage materials. Before recently taking on the position of Associate Curator, Christina Johnson was the FIDM Museum Collections Manager for seven years.
The FIDM Museum Conservation Collection is a collection of problematic storage materials and non-accessioned damaged objects, as well as pieces with inherent vice. It is used to instruct people about museum collections management and preventative conservation for garments, accessories, and textiles. I founded this collection at the FIDM Museum after learning a great deal from a similar group of items used as part of my New York University Costume Studies graduate conservation class, taught by Chris Paulocik, Conservator at The Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art. FIDM Museum staff members use The Conservation Collection when teaching community workshops focused on the basic care and handling of costume and textiles. These hands-on teaching tools are beneficial not only to fellow museum employees who wish to learn storage basics, but also to people who care for family collections of cherished heirloom garments.
What follows is a selection of storage materials and damaged objects comprising a portion of the Conservation Collection. These pieces have either been de-accessioned out of our Permanent Collection, or donated to us over the years. Museum storage standards are constantly evolving. What might be thought of as archival storage or appropriate use in the past, such as modeling museum garments, or allowing non-museum professionals to exhibit pieces, is no longer acceptable in our field. One of the shoes below was displayed in sunlight for an extended period of time, while the other was not, accounting for the extreme color discrepancy between the pair.