Museum

New Collections Space

Museum fine arts team creates new collections space

In December 2011, the fine arts collection was awarded a $100,000 grant from the Rasmuson Foundation to fund the purchase and installation of art racks and museum-quality mobile storage furniture for the new fine art space in the UAF Elmer E. Rasmuson Library.

After much negotiation, the project was awarded to Space Saver North West of Seattle, which has built and installed similar projects for both the museum and the campus library. The first challenge came when a discrepancy in weight limits per square foot was discovered. It turned out that the acceptable amount was much less than expected.

That led to several design changes, according to Fine Arts Curator Mareca Guthrie. “I spent several months researching solutions at other museums and consulting with conservators. In the end, I invented an entirely new method of constructing storage for paintings using steel rods as a framework and sheets of archival corrugated plastic as dividers.”

Guthrie says the solution created a significantly lighter structure but meant several months of labor on her part. This innovation is notable for an industry where things have been done the same way for many years.

The work was completed in November and December 2012 at minus 30-degree temperatures. The restricted security access at the facility meant Guthrie was required to be present during the entire three-week process. The successful completion of the installation was met with a sigh of relief.

Next, the shelving modification process occurred over a three-month period from January through March 2013. It involved a long list of details, including the cutting of 1,280 plastic sheets to use as dividers and 1,200 square feet of carpet for padding shelves. Guthrie and the fine arts team also hand-sewed 1,200 square feet of carpet at six-inch intervals to prevent objects sliding around on the shelves. Then, the team fastened 1,280 sheets of corrugated plastic with archival tape to create smooth edges. And that doesn’t include the labeling! Finally, the crew named and labeled 1,280 individual shelves.

With the further help from the graduate students, Guthrie moved over 2,000 individual works of art between April and June of 2013. She says this phase was the most stressful and delicate part of the process and is, in fact, a work still in progress.

Guthrie says her team deserves a round of applause. “I send a hearty thank you to UAF Art Department Graduate Students Karinna Gomez, Gail Priday, Alice Bailey, and Kirsten Olsen for helping with this process. They saved the project and my sanity.”

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