5 Core Concepts to Operate a Museum
Want to learn about the departmental roles and design elements that make up the backbone of museum operations? Read more about these 5 concepts and designs to enhance your museum exhibitions and conservation labs.
In this article, we will look at each of these five museum departments in detail.
1. The Conservation Department
The Conservation Department plays an important role in research and protecting museum artifacts. Museum curators and conservators rely on a combination of skills and techniques that, depending on the project, combine the patient, observational work of a crime investigator, the methodical approach of a research scientist, and the deft hand of an artist at working in an art studio setting.
The following video from the National Portrait Gallery, London, featuring conservator Nicole Ryder, helps us get a sense of the day-to-day activities of a professional conservator (https://www.sciencemag.org/
Ryder takes us through the key steps of caring for the museum's collection of paintings (https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/
Common Design Elements For Museum Conservation Laboratories
Like other laboratory projects, each museum's conservation laboratory is different. But from our experience in creating conservation laboratory environments for major museums, there are some elements that are common to most installations. These include:
It's important to specify custom designed workbenches with ergonomic features, such as height-adjustable work surfaces (https://formaspace.com/
• Specialized Equipment Tables
Expensive conservation lab equipment needs a solid foundation. Formaspace custom designed tables can protect your investment, while providing special features, such as vibration isolation, for lab processes that are sensitive to vibration.
• Chemically Resistant Countertops
When choosing countertop materials for conservation labs, keep in mind the potential for inadvertent chemical spills. Common options include stainless steel or chemically resistant phenolic and epoxy resin countertops (https://formaspace.com/
• Snorkels and Fume Hoods
It's critical to protect conservators and lab technicians from harmful chemical fumes or exposure to damaging particulates that can be released during conservation activities. Overhead snorkels or fume hoods (https://formaspace.com/
• Flexible Mobility Solutions
When it comes time to move irreplaceable museum artifacts or costly laboratory testing gear, choose rugged mobile carts and tables from Formaspace. We make strong, durable custom-designed mobile furniture that will help you move precious cargo safely and securely.
To illustrate these features in the real world, here is a photo of a recent Formaspace laboratory project installation (https://formaspace.com/
2. The Documentation Department
Conserving and displaying art and artifacts is just one aspect of a typical museum's mission. There is also a need to create and maintain supporting documentation for each item in the museum's collection. This is typically the responsibility of the Documentation Department.
This collected data is used in multiple ways. Inventory control is one example. Museum documents are also typically made available to scholarly researchers within the institution or to external museums or educational institutions. Museum interpreters also turn to the available documentation when they develop a plan to present the museum's collection to the public in an interesting, educational manner.
An exciting development in recent years is the direct sharing of museum documents and records directly with the public over the Internet.
The award-winning History of Vaccines website (https://www.historyofvaccines.org/)
3. The Research Department
When conservators and museum curators need more information they turn to the museum's Research Department. At the top institutions, it's not surprising to find museum research departments with advanced scientific capabilities, ranging from X-ray painting analysis, DNA testing, carbon dating capabilities, as well as high-power gear for microscopic, chromatographic, and spectrophotometric analysis. Indeed, many of today's top museum research departments rival the capabilities of leading commercial and educational institution research labs.
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