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Friday, May 17 • 11:30am - 12:00pm
(Sustainability) How Preservation and Access Go Together in Collection Care: Valuable to the Community Rather Than Forgotten Forever - a Case Study

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Lack of knowledge about a collection and the resulting lack of appreciation of its values are among the most common and “ordinary” agents of deterioration that cause the loss of objects. This is the reason why the care for a collection has to include research to link materiality and information and must provide proper access to the collection to make it valuable to the community. Appropriate storage and exhibition form an important part of these tasks – improving the environment of a collection does not only contribute to its protection from wear, breakage, loss, pests, fire, vandalism and theft, light damage, contaminants and climate extremes, it also provides access and overview, and places it in a framework showing it is something worth protecting. In 2013 the Institute of Conservation of the University of Applied Arts Vienna under the leadership of Gabriela Krist and the monastery Neukloster in Lower Austria decided to work together to bring its “Kunstkammer” – an arts and natural wonders chamber – back to life again. At this time the collection was known neither to the public, nor to art historians, nor to most of the monks. However, it existed: locked up in hidden rooms, stored choc-a-bloc and hardly cared for, already suffering mechanical damages and losses. A plan of action was developed, based on risk analysis and on the analysis of the collection itself. First, an inventory was drawn up, each object was accessed and documented. It showed that the collection comprises more than 4000 natural specimens and 1000 paintings and objects, which were collected in the 18th century, amongst them highlights such as carved precious stone, ebony carvings and shell sculptures. The data about the condition and the dimensions of the objects served as a basis for the calculation of storage-space requirements and of the need for conservation treatments. Conservation treatments followed a concept of “minimal intervention” with the goal of preserving and saving more objects rather than perfectly restoring/conserving some objects. Simultaneously, research was continued on the collection, including archival sources, literature research and the analysis of similar collections in Europe. The gained knowledge was then invested into the development of an exhibition concept. Exhibition and storage rooms were planned and implemented according to the principles of preventive conservation and using as much of the monastery’s infrastructure as possible: in-house carpenters, electricians, the gardener… Given a tight framework of time and money (as always in collections) the projects had to focus on priorities and aims, deciding on which actions and expenses would be more, or less, beneficial for the collection. In May 2017, the project was finished successfully and the exhibition opened to the public. The interest in the community and the pride at the achieved results and at the collection itself in the monastery is constantly rising. This new situation makes sure that the collection will never be forgotten again.


Johanna Runkel

Conservator, University of Applied Arts Vienna, Institute for Conservation
Johanna Runkel is doing her phD-thesis at the Institute of Conservation of the University of Applied Arts Vienna under the supervision of the head of the institute Gabriela Krist. She works as an university assistant there and is specialised in collection care/preventive conservation... Read More →

Friday May 17, 2019 11:30am - 12:00pm EDT
Shinnecock/Nipmuc Rooms Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  Specialty Session, Sustainability