Costume & Textiles Department Move
Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building
IntroductionIn January 2008, the first of over 30,000 objects from the Costume and Textiles Department moved through the doors of the new storage facility in the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building. This long-anticipated move, over eight years in the planning, began in November 1999 when the Philadelphia Museum of Art purchased the former Reliance Standard Insurance Company Building. This website component describes the storage planning and design process as well as the methods and materials used for storing many of the costumes, textiles, and accessories in this extensive and important collection. Funding for this project was generously provided with a Conservation Project Support grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
HistoryThe Museum’s Costume and Textiles Collection is one of the oldest, largest, and finest in the United States, comprising over 30,000 pieces of textiles, costume and accessories ranging from Chinese Han Dynasty (206 BC–221 AD) fragments to contemporary fashion and fiber art.
Highlights from the collection
In mid-1970, the Museum constructed what was then considered a state-of-the-art 4,200 square-foot storage area with wooden laminate drawers below a series of hanging racks constructed from commercial piping. In 1980, a dedicated HVAC system was installed specifically for costume and textile storage. This allowed the environment to be maintained at a very stable 45% relative humidity and temperature of 70° with less then 2% or 2° variation. However, by the early 1990s the collection had severely outgrown the existing storage space.
PMA Costume and Textile storage designed c. 1975
Temporary measures—such as replacing some of the wooden drawers with compacting wire shelving—made the storage of new acquisitions possible but did little to ease the crowded storage conditions.
1970s wooden drawer storage
1995, compacting wire rack storage
2004, compacting wire rack storage