Fernanda spoke on Wednesday afternoon about the three-year expansion project for the cold photograph storage vaults at the Amon Carter Museum. In giving the talk, Fernanda hope to assist other institutions that might be taking on a similar project, and she offered practical information on the fundraising, design and building process.
The expansion was necessary because the old storage vaults at the Museum lacked the space and storage racks that could accommodate large-format framed and mounted color photographs, a common problem as institutions increasingly collect these oversize works. The new vault would prioritize racks for large framed color photographs, but also include open shelves and flat files. The expanded vaults are large enough to accommodate the next 30 years of growth. The compact storage system allows storage cabinets to be rolled along the floor to allow access to one aisle at a time. A canopy system protects the racks, flat files and open shelves from water, and locks on the drawers to prevent them from sliding open when the storage units are rolled. Conditions in the new vaults will be the same as they previously were – Cool is 60° F, 40% RH, Cold is 20° F, 30% RH, and a vestibule for acclimatizing photographs between the two is 40° F, 35% RH (all temperatures ±3° F).
In addition to sharing details of the design, Fernanda shared her experiences with the fundraising aspects of the project. This provided helpful insight into how museum storage needs can be made an institutional priority. The Amon Carter highlighted the storage expansion as part of a larger capital campaign, and Fernanda emphasized that museum-wide buy-in to the importance of cold photo storage was vital to the success of the project. Because the larger capital campaign was headed by the development department, she highlighted the importance of the relationship between Development and Conservation departments. Related to the fundraising aspect of the expansion, at the end of the talk Barbara Lemmen asked the question, how did they convince anyone in the museum who needed convincing that some of the money from the capital campaign should go towards photo storage? Fernanda responded that having had cold storage already, it was easy to show it worked (things that are known to fade, like color photos, were still in excellent condition).