A recommendation on collections in storage

For over 80 years, museum professionals have been raising concerns about the conditions of their collections in storage. More than 55,000 museums exist in the world, and typically 90% of their objects are in storage rooms. This concern is becoming increasingly acute: collections inevitably grow, while financial resources continue to dwindle.  Given this situation, how can museums ensure that their treasures in storage are adequately looked after and accessible?

This very question brought 200 museum professionals from 28 countries and 107 different institutions to Brussels on 29 September for the International RE-ORG Seminar: Reconnecting with Collections in Storage. Though important advances have been made, particularly thanks to RE-ORG, far too often collections in storage suffer neglect. More must be done to protect stored collections.

In his keynote address, Gaël de Guichen, special advisor to ICCROM and storage reorganization specialist, examined this question. He concluded that a key factor is a lack of awareness on the part of decision makers at all levels, beginning with those within the collecting institutions.

"It is not a question of more or less developed countries," said de Guichen. "It is a question of more or less developed museums. There are developing museums in developed countries, and developed museums in developing countries... All countries of the world are in the same situation. Decision makers need to recognize the magnitude of the problem, once and for all.”

A recommendation on collections in storageDelegates at the seminar signed a recommendation urging national and international institutions to take all possible measures to ensure effective conservation for collections in storage. Communities should also have the opportunity to reconnect with their stored heritage, as outlined in the document.

This recommendation is in line with the resolution passed at ICCROM’s 27th General Assembly in 2011 following a survey carried out the same year. As per this survey, over 60% of museum collections in storage on all continents were at risk of damage. Moreover, 25% of those storage areas were so full that staff could not move from one end to the other.

Download the summary of results of the 2011 ICCROM-UNESCO Survey.

To help museums regain control of their storage areas, ICCROM created the RE-ORG methodology (www.re-org.info). In the past five years, RE-ORG capacity building projects have been implemented in more than 10 countries around the world. These projects have depended on partnerships with organizations such as the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI), the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) in Belgium (both of which co-organized in this seminar), and other national institutions.

Gaël de Guichen’s keynote can be viewed online at the RE-ORG International Facebook page.