Storage Stories: Condition Report this!
August 9, 2016
Museum storage evokes a sense of mystery, aura, and unknown treasures but what really happens there?
One of the most common museum storage practices is Condition Reporting, assessing the conservation state of a work. These documents help staff determine what can be on view in the Galleries or what needs to be fixed before it goes on loan to another institution. Condition Reports are traditionally a physical checklist with a photograph of the work attached. The noted condition issues include scratches, flaking of paint, and dents on frames. After a thorough review of the painting, an overall condition is determined on a scale of Excellent to Very Poor.
This summer the Delaware Art Museum is Condition Reporting its painting collection, over 1,200 pieces. This work is sponsored by a Museums for America grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. We have two technicians dedicated to reviewing every painting, and they are using an iPad to generate their Condition Reports.
First they photograph the painting with the iPad, and then open the image using a PDF editing program. Prior to digital photography staff sketched the areas of damage on gridded paper to document their findings. This time-consuming practice is no more! Instead the technicians annotate the image with text and draw directly on the digital painting with color coded lines.
Museum storage may be climate controlled and quiet, but it is full of collection care activities like Condition Reporting.
Collections Project Manager