Optimising the art store at MAG

Hi, I am Emalee, the first trainee at Worcester City Museum and Art Gallery. I’ve had plenty to do in my first month here including collections research, organizing the art store, recruiting volunteers and exhibitions planning. For my first blog post, I’d like to talk a little about the store, as it is an area that will be important throughout my traineeship.

Harry William Adams, Winter at Malvern Worcestershire, landscape, winter scene, Victorian painting

Harry William Adams, Winter at Malvern Worcestershire, © Worcester City Museums

The art store at MAG is a treasure trove, full of dramatic Victorian landscapes by artists such as Benjamin Leader and David Cox alongside Tudor portraiture, abstract oils, impressionist scenes and much more. Although it would be hard to choose a favourite, I am currently rather taken by the vast Winter at Malvern, Worcestershire by Harry William Adams (above), which is a beautiful, textured depiction of British Camp, an area important to so many Worcestershire people.

We suffer with the coupling of a lack of storage space and a collection of enormous paintings such as Winter at Malvern which is an impressive 121 x 181.5cm. But fortunately, we are planning to create a second strong room to house our more valuable porcelain and vulnerable taxidermy which currently share the art store.   This will give us a few extra square feet to play with which should make all the difference. In the meantime, I have been cloistered away tidying, sorting and planning.

art store, roller racking, collections care, museum store

Roller racking in the art store at Worcester City Museum and Art Gallery

stack if paintings, collections care, museum store, art gallery store, frames

Paintings too big for the roller racking stacked very safely and carefully

Museum budgets are always a juggling act between the demands of collections in storage and the costs of making collections accessible. I have spent far too much time perusing collections solutions websites such as www.bruynzeel.co.uk and http://www.conservation-by-design.co.uk/ fantasizing about the hermetically sealed, purpose made, all white art store of my dreams. But short of the sympathy of an extremely wealthy and benevolent benefactor, this will not be happening during my time at MAG. We have therefore had to come up with some more creative solutions.

After clearing the work spaces as much as possible, myself and Garson have recognised that some large solander boxes to fit the top of the solander trolleys will solve our issues for large works on paper. With the addition of some padding and acid-free tissue on top, we will also still be able to use these surfaces to safely lay out works we need to look at. Also, to help improve our working area, we are simply going to buy some tall drawers on casters, so things can be quickly stored away.

Although these solutions only solve some of our problems, with the added space of the porcelain store soon, we should be on our way to a tidy, user-friendly store.