White on White on White and a Touch of Green…

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I want everything white, I said. OK, a little pale green on the floor would be good. As you can see from the pictures, it turned out beautifully.  The question is why white?  Let me explain that in a rather roundabout way.

Our collections storage, while beautiful, is also highly functional and sealed like a clean room. Think of collections storage like a set of nested dolls.  We start big with the room, and we work inward, controlling the environment more and more as we go.  Every detail of the collections storage was meticulously thought out and planned.  Working with our consultant, we looked at each piece of taxidermy, each shell, each mineral specimen, and each special needs item (think very large elephant bones) to make sure every one would have a safe home for years to come and that we will also have space to grow.

In truth, every single object in our collection has special needs. When we plan for the preservation of museum collections, we must think about many things:  temperature, humidity, light, dust, pests (including fungus and mildew), and off-gassing from things like highly acidic wood or certain paints.  We know for certain that minerals and shells are negatively affected by acidic fumes, particularly in association with high humidity, and we know that temperature affects humidity.  Warm temperatures and dust encourage fungus, mildew, and insect predation, which is particularly detrimental to our insect collection. Yep, insects love to eat other insects. And oh boy, do they like feathers and fur! All types of lighting will cause natural fibers to fade, and mineral specimens will not only fade, but their crystal structure can change.

The telling signs of disintegration and pest activity are visible as pools of dust and debris on the shelves around the objects and along baseboards. So back to the original question-why is everything white?  It is so we can see trouble as soon as it starts- and nip it in the bud.

This is important because the Cook Museum of Natural Science has made a promise to every donor that makes a gift to our collection of objects and to the public we serve. We promise that we will care for your gift according to the highest museum standards and that we will use your gift for research, exhibition, or educational programming.  These objects are more than rocks, bugs, and stuffed animals.  Each and every one is a sign of our dedication and the mutual trust we share with you.

And the pale green floor? Well, that’s just a quiet little nod to the aesthetic side of things.

 

Post written by: Cherry Johnson, CMNS Collections Manager

Planning for the shelving units for the Collection department took a year and a half and a week install the units into the space. There are 47 specialty units total.