Museum storage - the future?

November 20 2015


A new 'fully accesible' museum sotrage unit is to be built in Rotterdam, to house the collections of the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. Above is a video from the architects MVRDV. It is due to open in 2018.

The concept looks great, though we must wonder whether the public will be freely allowed to roam around the racks at all times, as indicated. But some form of access to works in storage is better than none at all, so well done Rotterdam for going ahead with this new scheme. Let's hope the prison-like enmeshed staircases don't make it through to completion.

On one level, this would appear to be the way forward for the problem of having so many works of art in storage. In the UK, over 80% of our public collection of oil paintings is in storage at any one time.

And yet, I do worry that if we see more buildings like this, then the wider problems of keeping so many works in storage won't be addressed. Surely it would be better (and cheaper) to think more creatively about getting works out on display, first by looking again at how we hang works in museums (single row hangs with acres of space around each picture), and secondly by considering sending stored works on loan to regional museums, or even schools and other civic spaces. We should also relax a little about new, zero-tolerance conservation strictures that say all paintings must be kept hermetically sealed in conditions of constant temperature, humidity and light. - which, for the most part, pictures survived pretty well without for centuries.* Part of me fears that once we start accepting the principle of keeping works in storage, even if it is 'accessible storage', then there they will remain. 

More here.

* Generally, it has not been not fluctuating temperatures that have harmed paintings over time, but the attentions of those charged with 'restoring' them.

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