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The Move

PMA Registrar scans a bar code during the move
Although the buildings are only a short distance apart, the actual move of the objects was quite complex and involved numerous steps. Prior to the start of the move each object was assigned a location within the new storage and the Museum Registrars attached a bar code label to each object. The bar codes were used to keep track of each object during each step of the move.

The type of conveyance used for each object was based on the way in which it would be stored in the new facility. Hanging costume was placed on a traditional rolling clothes rack that had been modified with an enclosed base and Tyvek cover. Objects that were to be stored on trays were placed into their assigned trays and the trays then placed into custom designed conveyance cart for the move. These carts were also used for transporting rolled textiles. A variety of other standard conveyances and carts were used to transport boxed objects.

Packed storage tray being placed into custom cart for move

To ensure that the new facility remained free of insect infestation all objects were subject to a low temperature treatment (freezing) prior to the move. The objects were covered with tissue and the conveyances were wrapped in plastic. This step protected the objects from being damaged by condensation. The conveyances were placed in a large walk-in freezer. The objects remained in the freezer, at a minimum of -22°F, for two to four days, depending on the density of the objects. The conveyances were removed from the freezer and placed in a "thaw room" for a minimum of 24 hours to allow the objects to return to room temperature. A small percentage of objects in the collection that may have been harmed by exposure to low temperatures were treated using an oxygen scavenger.

The project conservator removing a cart of hanging objects from the Museum’s walk-in freezer
A tray cart being moved from the freezer into the thaw room by the Project Conservator

The conveyances were moved through the lower levels of the Main Building to the loading dock where they were placed on a truck for the two-block trip to the new building.

Rolling racks with hanging costume are moved through the old building and loaded onto the truck for transfer to the new storage facility.

In the new building the objects were placed into their assigned locations. A variety of ladders and lifts were used to assist with the safe handling of the objects within the storage area. Small hanging costume was placed on a fork lift, to which a horizontal bar had been added. The bar was cranked up to the desired height allowing the technician to safely hang the piece in the assigned location.

(Left) A hand cranked fork lift is used to raise hanging costume to the appropriate height for safe handling. (Center) Rolled textiles can be easily retrieved by lifting out the support rod. (Left) Motorized personal lifts are used to retrieve and move small objects and boxes in the new storage area .

Before and After
The Philadelphia Museum of Art's important collection of costumes and textiles is now housed in a state-of-the-art facility. The before and after images of objects in their and new storage below demonstrates the outcome of years of work and planning over the course of this project.

Hanging Costumes
Hanging costume in old storage
Hanging costume in new storage
The old storage area, on the left, had excellent environmental conditions but after 30 years was severely overcrowded. Storage drawers below the hanging bars were difficult to access. The new compacting storage units have room to house the collection as it grows. Most units are double hung, with smaller items at the top, accessories, and other related textiles are stored in trays at the center.

Purses and Bags
Purses and bags in old storage
Purses and bags after rehousing in new storage
Purses and bags were stored in shallow drawers. In the new storage each item has its own mount which makes it possible to pick up and move without touching the actually object. The new storage trays are light weight and easily removable. Entire trays of objects can be moved to the adjacent study area for examination.

Hats in old storage
Hats in new storage
Prior to the move the hat collection, over 1200 hats, was stored in cabinets with sliding doors, Each hat was securely padded and safely stored but the overcrowded conditions made it difficult to see and access individual pieces. In the new storage, each hat is clearly visible and easily accessed.

Rolled textiles
Rolled textiles old storage was safe but difficult to access
New storage for rolled textiles provides ease of identification and access