Well, open storage is really more an answer to what to do with all the items buried in the back recesses of many museums – see the last scene in ‘Raider of the Lost Art’ if you are not sure what I mean. While I’ve not been in too many museum basements, I have been in enough to attest that there are many millions (yes, millions) of amazing pieces in the basement storage of museums around the world. Well, two major museums have started what I hope will be a trend — storage spaces that visitors can see. Not to be too excited, no you can’t touch and I am sure these are very expensive setups, very promising none the less.
The idea is that the items in question are packed in fairly tight aisles behind glass, with minimal descriptions (some times only ID numbers) , with a computer search terminal every few aisles to lookup more detailed information. And, like our warehouse image above, with many rows of many different types of items. So far we have seen such displays in the NY Metropolitan Museum’s American Wing and the Smithsonian’s Art Museums Luce collection (in DC). (These were both developed with major funding from The American Art Program of the Henry Luce Foundation— smart group they are).
Once you get past the total awe of seeing so many great items spread out in front of you, you will notice the two collections are somewhat different. The Met has a computer terminal mounted on the end of every 2nd or 3rd row, and a fairly tight ceiling giving a slightly cramped air.
While the SI’s collection is wrapped around the 2 story balcony of the old Patent office that houses the museum itself. That opens the bays up with the amazing architecture of that building.