The Spencer Museum of Art cares for a diverse collection of approximately 36,000 objects, yet only a tiny percentage of those are on view in the galleries on any given day. The works that are not on display are cared for by the collections staff responsible for ensuring that all works in the collection are sustained and will be available for future generations to study and enjoy. Light, dust, pests, and drastic changes in environmental conditions can jeopardize the safety of collections. To prevent damage collections are stored in tightly controlled environments, often in specially made boxes or cabinets that keep out light, dust and pests, and minimize the chance of accidental damage.
When the Spencer Museum of Art assumed stewardship of the ethnographic collections formerly in the University of Kansas Museum of Anthropology in 2007, work began to integrate that collection of approximately 9,500 objects into the museum’s existing holdings. In multiple phases, beginning in 2007 and completed in 2009, the entire collection was moved from open shelving units to custom gasket-sealed cabinets. Rolled textiles were moved to specialized cantilevered storage units. Spears, bows, and long arrows were re-housed on padded, cantilevered armatures. Cabinet shelves were lined with acid-free materials and collections staff created and continue to create custom storage mounts, trays, and cushions for the various fragile items in the collection.
Collections staff have implemented pest management programs in both the Spencer Museum of Art and in historic Spooner Hall where the ethnographic collections are currently housed, to protect the collections from damage caused by insects and rodents that are attracted to organic materials.
The Museum’s collection management database, MuseumPlus, enables the staff to search our collection records and allows us to share information about all of our collections on-line through our website. Before an object record becomes available on our on-line collection it is assigned a unique accession number, cataloged, and physically inscribed. Once the object is accessioned it becomes searchable in our internal database and on-line, accompanied by an image when available. Each week we are able to share more objects and more in-depth information about our collections through our website.