Behind the Collection Doors: Storing the Textile Art Collection at the Denver Art Museum
Last spring, the collections management department was busy preparing for the opening of the new textile art gallery and its inaugural exhibition, Cover Story, which features objects from the Denver Art Museum’s permanent textile art collection. In addition, the department also prepared the textile art permanent collection to be moved to a storage area near the gallery and preview spaces. This included a full inventory of the collection, assessment of current storage methods, reorganization based on curatorial preferences, and rehousing of objects to improve how they are being stored.
Planning for the move began with a full inventory of the textile art collection. There are more than 5,000 objects of various origins and types in the collection and an estimated 80 percent have been moved to this new storage area. The inventory allowed the collections management department to assess the current storage and organization of the collection. For example, one issue we discovered was a single drawer containing several different types of objects, all from France, including a sampler, an embroidered shirt, and a beaded bag. The inventory allowed us to determine how to reorganize and rehouse the objects in a way that is safer and follows the preferences of the curatorial department.
While storing objects based on geographic origins (such as the French drawer described above) was not a bad way of organizing a collection, it was not the curatorial preference. They prefer the collection be organized by type and then by origin. This organization resulted in drawers filled with samplers, further organized into American samplers, European samplers, and New World samplers, for example. The same organization was done for embroidered textiles, printed textiles, hats, purses, and the remainder of the collection.
Organization of the collection by object type as opposed to origin facilitates safer storage of the objects. Objects are now stored with other like objects in a manner best suited for them. This might include simply acid-free tissue paper separating objects into layers or a segmented tray that could be easily slid in and out of a drawer for review. Storing like objects together allows for easier handling, especially when trying to locate the objects. An object stored well facilitates greater ease of access and means the object will be better preserved for years to come.
While viewing the remarkable objects chosen for Cover Story, remember that these objects are a mere sampling of the extensive collection safely tucked away behind the scenes.