With the RE-ORG Method celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, a new guide is set to make it easier for museum professionals and institutions to run their own workshops on improving storage for collections. Offering a behind-the-scenes look at how the method is taught, it brings together a decade’s worth of insights gained from successful training initiatives in Canada, Belgium, Chile, India, Serbia, and Nigeria.
“RE-ORG continues to go from strength to strength, with the first project in Italy just completed and a joint venture involving six countries across Southeast Asia underway,” says Valerie Magar, ICCROM’s Unit Manager for Programmes “To capitalize on this interest, we’re working with our partners on ways to tap into the knowledge that exists within the growing international community of users. We want to empower those who care for collections not only to undertake a storage reorganization themselves, but also to share that valuable experience with others, in this case by becoming a RE-ORG coach.”
Simon Lambert, Manager of Preventive Conservation at the Canadian Conservation Institute and one of the authors behind the new guide, agrees. “We’ve heard from the museum community that they value practical training on the RE-ORG Method, particularly given how daunting it can be to take on a project in a real storage room,” he says. “The guide covers everything that goes into organizing a three-to-five-day workshop specifically on the implementation phase of the method and is filled with illustrations and real-world examples on what to do before, during and after training.”
The guide’s co-author Marjolijn Debulpaep, Head of the Preventive Conservation Unit at KIK-IRPA, says the decision to refer to workshop leaders as ‘coaches’ reflects the importance RE-ORG training places on teamwork. “A coach is someone who encourages and motivates the team while creating a supportive environment in which everyone can learn by doing,” she explains. “RE-ORG workshops are about participants working together to develop solutions, with a host museum providing the setting for them to share feedback, ask questions and develop action plans for tackling their own projects.”
Both Lambert and Debulpaep have overseen national RE-ORG training strategies in Canada and Belgium respectively, contributing to a growing number of requests for workshops. “The tools needed to mount a successful RE-ORG project are available online but people often want to practice before trying them out in their own institution,” says Debulpaep. “With the release of the guide, we hope to inspire some of the more than 1 000 professionals who have already participated in RE-ORG training to become coaches and help create more opportunities for those facing similar storage challenges to benefit from group learning activities.”
Over the past 10 years, RE-ORG training has proven to be highly adaptable, with different initiatives running anywhere from a few days to 15 months. However, while the first three phases of the method can be taught face-to-face or online, the final phase is designed to be hands-on. With restrictions on in-person activities still in place in many countries due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Lambert offers encouragement to aspiring coaches everywhere. “It is never too early to start planning a workshop on reorganizing storage and hopefully this guide provides you with some added confidence and optimism for the future, no matter where you are.”
It also represents a chance to step up efforts to address one of the biggest issues putting collections at risk. “There are more than 55 000 museums worldwide and storage is a serious problem for so many of them,” Magar says. “It doesn’t matter if your goal is to deliver a small local workshop or contribute to a nationwide strategy, as a coach you will be helping to amplify the impact of RE-ORG and building on this exciting globe-spanning reorganization movement.”