Last updated: May 12, 2014
For the Museum Branch of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), many tasks center on the question of the best practices for storing museum collections. The Museum Branch personnel are dedicated to four areas: Archaeology, Natural History, History Objects (three-dimensional objects), and Archives (two-dimensional objects and media). In order to preserve these collections, personnel stores items properly, monitors storage environments, performs pest management monitoring, completes housekeeping tasks, maintains a safe and secure location, and keeps intellectual control of all collections within the GGNRA collection. The Museum Team references the National Park Service's Museum Handbook, and current professional museum publications and reference manuals for instruction on these tasks. In this first discussion about storing collections, we'll describe the best environments to hold museum objects and elements that are important in keeping them stable.
The environment of the GGNRA museum collection storage is monitored by recording the temperature and relative humidity twice a day. Each collection space has a dehumidifier that works to remove moisture from the air here in the foggy Bay Area. Generally, museum collection storage is kept within prescribed ranges: 60°F - 70°F temperature and 40% - 50% relative humidity. Some museum collections prefer a lower humidity because of their make up; for example metals should be kept in a space where the humidity is lower than 35% to prevent corrosion. However, the primary goal in environmental monitoring is to prevent repeated fluctuations in both temperature and relative humidity. Each month, the Museum Team reviews the past month's environmental recordings and makes necessary adjustments to prevent environmental fluctuation.
Museum storage space is monitored for unwanted pests, many of which have the potential to harm collections. Pest sticky traps are laid out in each collection storage room in order to monitor what types of pests are gaining access to the rooms. These traps are changed every other month. Pests are identified and assessed for what potential damage to the collection they may do either by eating collections and/or dirtying collections, and a method for eradicating harmful pests is devised. Especially harmful pests to the GGNRA Archival Collection are silverfish that prefer to eat paper and adhesive, they will often consume the writing on documents when feasting. The access points for the pests are also identified and blocked in order to prevent more pests from coming into the storage space. New additions to the collection are often quarantined and monitored for existing infestations before bringing them into collection storage.
Museum collection storage is kept as clean as possible so that dust and other particulates do not harm the irreplaceable collections. The GGNRA Museum Team has regular cleaning days during which the staff vacuums and dusts the storage spaces. In addition to keeping dust away from collections, museum storage is designed to keep damaging light away from collections. Windows are covered and fluorescent light bulbs are enclosed in plastic sleeves to prevent the passage of ultraviolet light into the storage area. In addition, lights are kept off in collection storage spaces when no employees are present in order to prevent light damage and to save energy too!
By keeping watch on the enviroment of storage spaces and maintaining a stable situation, the GGNRA Museum Team ensures the best possible survival rate for collections, allowing these items to be viewed and exhibited by future generations.