Relocating is never a simple process—especially when moving an enormous art collection, as the Harvard Art Museums did in 2008 to prepare for the renovation and expansion of our historic facility, and again in 2014 following the completion of the building project. In keeping with the museums’ sustainability efforts, we took steps to reduce waste and energy use by donating existing storage cabinets and exhibition cases to our campus peers.
The Harvard Semitic Museum, which moved to its current location on Divinity Avenue in 1903, was looking to upgrade the storage system for its collection of more than 40,000 Near Eastern artifacts, and expressed interest in the extra cabinets. This couldn’t have happened at a better time for the museum, as it is currently undergoing renovations and implementing cutting-edge technology to make the institution more accessible to faculty, students, and the general public.
“The donation of more than 60 storage cabinets from the Harvard Art Museums has enabled the Semitic Museum to revamp completely its collections storage, marking a significant improvement over existing conditions,” said Joseph Greene, deputy director and curator at the Semitic Museum. Assistant curator Adam Aja developed a plan to replace the assortment of 1930s specimen cabinets, 1970s plywood cupboards, and miscellany of open metal shelving with the Harvard Art Museums’ lightly used cabinetry.
Existing exhibition cases quickly found new homes as well, at the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African and African American Art and the Museum of Scientific Instruments.
In addition to these recycling efforts, for the 2014 collections move we used 90 percent of the crates, containers, and conveyances that were used in the 2008 relocation.
This conscientious approach to moving has not only adhered to the museums’ sustainability goals, but it’s also strengthened our relationships with peer institutions across campus. Look for future stories about these partnerships.