Good vibrations: the art of caring for collections during construction projects
Megan Harvey is a collection manager in the Collection Care department at Auckland Museum, working in preventive conservation. Megan is responsible for environmental monitoring at the museum and works with a team of collection managers & technicians to improve collection storage across the museum.
Over the past three years, environmental monitoring has expanded to include vibration monitoring, with the arrival of a trio of vibration monitors. These monitors have been strategically placed across the museum to keep an eye on the Future Museum building works.
Over the past three years Auckland Museum has undergone a major building redevelopment, which has had a huge impact on galleries and collection stores alike.
We have commissioned an offsite storage facility, Manu Tiko, which houses the contents of many now-closed galleries. Other collections have been moved around within the museum, in an intricate version of the slide puzzle game, always keeping ourselves one step ahead of the next construction phase.
However, for some collections it was not possible – or practical – to move them. In these cases we have implemented vibration mitigations and installed vibration monitors, which allows us to call a halt to construction if necessary.
This talk will use two case studies to illustrate the numerous challenges faced – and overcome – by the collection care team while working in a museum building undergoing transformation.
(1) Natural Sciences corridor
This part of the museum houses most of the onsite natural sciences collection objects, ranging from articulated skeletons and taxidermy mounts to pinned insects and wet specimens in jars.
Below the natural sciences corridor is the former administration corridor, which needed to be changed into the new staff lunchroom. This required walls to be removed and new HVAC systems installed, which would produce large levels of vibrations.
It was not possible to move all of these collections away from their stores. Some were needed daily by researchers, while others – such as the wet specimens – had no legal storage alternative. This meant that we had to move what specimens we could to alternative storage, protect the rest in situ, and monitor the construction with a vibration monitor.
(2) Ceramics store
Construction needed to be done on the roof area right over the top of this store of very fragile objects. Fortunately we had an adjacent processing room, which made a perfect temporary home for all the ceramics, which were too fragile to remain in the ceramics store.
We inspected each object in the ceramics store, and any with old repairs or friable surfaces were moved across to the workroom space. The objects which stayed in the ceramics store were padded with foam, and spaced out on their shelves so that if they did move, they wouldn’t bump their neighbours. A vibration monitor was also installed to keep an eye on the construction above.
It has been this combination of high-tech and low-tech solutions which has allowed the collection care team to protect our objects through the last three years of construction, ensuring the safety of our collection while also enabling construction work to proceed as needed.