Authors: Alicia Ghadban, Simon Lambert, Canadian Conservation Institute and Margaret Mulrooney, Colchester Historeum
RE-ORG Canada is a storage reorganization training initiative organized by the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) in collaboration with ICCROM, provincial museum associations, and the Museums Assistance Program (MAP). It is based on the RE-ORG methodology (developed by ICCROM and UNESCO) – a tool designed to help smaller museums in developing countries reorganize their storage and documentation systems. The program combines training and distance learning over a one-year period and where six museums undergo a storage reorganization project of their own. All professionals meet over the course of the program, including for a face-to-face workshop, and where one other institution is selected as a host for a RE-ORG case study. Currently on its second edition, RE-ORG Canada launched in the Atlantic region thanks to the invaluable collaboration with the Association of Nova Scotia Museums (ANSM).
The 2016 workshop took place at the Colchester Historeum, a local museum in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada, that occupies a municipally designated historical building. After 40 years of a growing collection and no offsite storage location, the limited space that was available for the collection storage became an issue and increasingly impacted the functionality and operations of the museum. The collection was composed of around 10,000 mixed objects related to the social, cultural, and natural history of Colchester County.
These objects were stored in two dedicated spaces – a storage room in the basement and a storage room on the third floor. The latter was approximately 32 m2 (344 ft2) in size with slanted walls and presented the following concerns: objects were stored directly on the floor; collection and non-collection items were stored in the same space; sub-collection items were displaced; furniture units were overcrowded; there was no available space for additional accessioned objects; and there were duplicate accession numbers with the Archives Department in a shared database over a four-year period (2011-2015). For these reasons, the Colchester Historeum became an ideal case study for a storage reorganization, and when the newly appointed Curator – backed by a very supportive Board of Directors – was given the opportunity to host the CCI’s RE-ORG Canada workshop, she accepted with great enthusiasm.
Given the fact that there was only one full-time staff member and that the workshop would occur over the course of three days, the new plan of the storage room was devised prior to the arrival of all course participants and in collaboration with the CCI advisory team. This was done in order to maximize labour and utilize time efficiently. With that being said, there were a number of special considerations that impacted the new plan which included: the size of the room; a pipe that disrupted access to collections; limited ceiling lighting; one exterior window; one access door; and large stationary furniture that occupied a lot of space.
A temporary swing space was set up in an exhibition space adjacent to the storage room. This space was used as a meeting ground for all team members, a workshop for selected tasks (e.g. custom-built boxes), and for temporarily housing collection and non-collection items. Prior to the removal of any items from the storage room, some of the wire mobile shelving units had to be assembled in order to temporarily hold collection and non-collection items. Once sufficient items and select furniture had been disassembled or relocated from the storage room, the mobile tracks for the shelving units were laid and a few units were installed. This provided the opportunity to relocate some large collection items and allow for more working space, meanwhile robust metal items were cleaned and relocated to a designated storage room in the basement, and any objects that had been accessioned between 2011 and 2015 were isolated in a separate room for future review.
The wooden units that previously housed some of the hanging textile collection were disassembled and reused to create a custom-built slotted unit for framed and unframed artwork, and its pegboard was used to mount long and thin objects on the slanted wall in the storage room using unbleached cotton tying tape.
[Figure 4] In addition, fluted plastic was used to create custom-built boxes for textiles; collection items were regrouped by size and type to alleviate overcrowding; wall brackets and dowels were used to hang textiles behind the access door and front wall; and rolled textiles were hung on the slanted wall using s-hooks and chains, and were secured using an additional piece of plywood.
Tips for Preparing a RE-ORG project:
- Complete Phase 2: Storage Condition Report of the RE-ORG methodology.
- Devise a new plan that addresses your main storage issues.
- Develop a Gantt chart to help place your storage reorganization steps in order.
- Gather all necessary equipment, tools, materials, and support (e.g. labour, financial).
- Implement your storage reorganization project while remaining flexible and adaptable to possible changes or unexpected challenges.
- Extensively document the entire process.
- Share your knowledge and experience!
For specifics on how to construct these RE-ORG projects see the following solution pages on STASH