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East Asian Art Storage Project

Introduction

The Museum’s East Asian art collection consists of over 7,500 objects and includes works of art dating from 2,500 BCE to the present. Encompassing the cultures of China, Japan, Korea, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, the objects are composed of a variety of materials, from large ceramic vases and life-size figural wood carvings to small lacquer boxes and ivory sewing needles. The storage area for these items had last been renovated in the early 1970s, but with the many new pieces acquired by the Museum since that time, the space had become overcrowded.

The East Asian Art Storage Project was a multiphase effort to provide a safe and effective storage area with new conservation-grade storage units and the rehousing of some 4,000 objects. These pages focus on the storage units; the proper handling of objects; and the stabilizing, rehousing, and image documentation of the East Asian collection.

Project Overview

In 1999–2000, funded by a generous grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Museum conservators assessed the environment in the existing East Asian art storage space and examined over 4,300 objects. The condition survey was a crucial first step in determining priorities for the collection’s care, the type of new storage units needed, and the reconfiguration of the storage area to accept the new units. In 2001–2002 a second IMLS grant supported the selection and purchase of eight cabinets for the works of art with the most fragile materials, such as stucco archaeological pieces and Japanese arms and armor. Additional grants in 2003 and 2004 enabled the completion of the project: rehousing of the collection in the new storage units.

Benefits to the Collection

The East Asian Art Storage Project applies many of the principles of preventive conservation highlighted in this site. Improvements on the storage area created a controlled environment that is secure, minimizes handling of the objects, and allows for future growth and increased accessibility.

Acknowledgements and Grants

The project to improve East Asian Art storage was supported in part by grants from:
The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation
The Women’s Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Institute of Museum and Library Services

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