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June 9, 2020

NetworkCall for Papers – Museum International: Museum Collection Storage

Museum Collection Storage. Vol. 73, Nº 289-290.

ICOM is preparing an issue of Museum International on the theme Museum Collection Storage. All proposals submitted will be assessed for suitability and if chosen, the subsequent articles will go through a double-blind peer review process. The issue is expected to be published, in collaboration with Taylor&Francis/Routledge, in June 2021. 

Museum Collection Storage 

Although it forms an essential component of museum activity, museum collection storage has failed to arouse the interest of politicians, researchers and other stakeholders, whose attention is focused on museums’ public spaces. However, most museums store a large part of their collections – up to 99% in certain institutions – in these spaces. A significant number of museum professionals also work in these spaces, ensuring the preservation and correct handling of objects: registrars, conservators, restorers, among others. Although often perceived as dusty, inactive spaces, reserves are in fact essential to the management and preventive conservation of collections. In a context of increasing collections and their growing circulation, storage facilities appear to be a central issue for museum policies. 

Events in recent years have brought museum collection storage back to the fore. Natural disasters (floods, fires, earthquakes, etc.) have highlighted the risk management issues that collections face in these spaces. Major renovation projects in certain institutions have also brought to light the economic and ecological challenges linked to the construction and maintenance of these conservation spaces. From an economic perspective, a certain number of experts plead for the limitation of these spaces, which they consider to house ‘unproductive stock’. For efficiency reasons, many establishments have also gradually decided to manage shared storage facilities, promoting the emergence of autonomous entities separate from exhibition spaces. This dissociation between the museum and its storage facilities reopens the debate on the collection’s role in the museum. At the same time, certain initiatives, such as the creation of visible storage or the opening of interpretation spaces in independent storage facilities, contribute to their visibility. However, the different dimensions to these facilities remain relatively unexplored. 

This issue of Museum International will open the discussion on museum collection storage in museums worldwide. An ICCROM study, conducted in 2011, found that two out of three museums reported lack of space, and that one in two museums had overcrowded museum collection storage. Almost 10 years later, how has the situation changed? What are museum storage conditions like in Europe, Africa, Asia, America, Oceania? What are the design templates for these spaces around the world? What alternative traditions to the Western museum storage model exist, and how are they used? Do professionals have sufficient resources to preserve their collections? How have conservation norms and standards been adapted? 

On a historical level, this issue will trace the transformations initiated since the beginning of this century, on the one hand by paying tribute to those who have advocated for improved conditions for heritage preservation, and, on the other, by examining the development of shared spaces, outsourcing, and the professionalisation of museum collection storage. We will be particularly interested in papers/contributions that address the concept of interpreting museum collection storage and the challenges of this process: guided tours, artists’ invitations, etc. We would also like to hear about special conditions required for sacred objects or sensitive heritage, which are subject to various display rules, and culturally sanctioned collection management practices. 

Should storage spaces be another means to enhance collections, complementary to exhibitions? Or do they provide an opportunity to transform the relationship with collections, through the visibility (or invisibility) of the conservation and collection management processes? How has museum collection storage evolved and what could their future look like? What is their place in the contemporary museum? How are the roles of those working in museum collection storage to be defined? 

Possible topics related to museum collection storage include, but are not limited to: 

  • Architecture, risk management and preventive conservation 
  • Empowerment and shared storage
  • Conservation and presentation of objects in reserve
  • Sustainable development
  • Collection interpretation in storage
  • Storage professions and training in storage management
  • Economic models for storage management
  • Museums without storage spaces; autonomous storage spaces
  • Concept of storage through history and civilisations
  • Pioneers in storage design and management
  • Storage for specific objects (sacred or sensitive heritage)
  • Alternative storage solutions

This issue aims to contribute to the emergence of a history of museum collection storage and their professionals – which remains to be written – but above all to a reflection on their future. We welcome proposals for papers that explore this critical area of the museum endeavour. 

Submission process 

Abstracts of between 250 and 300 words, written in English, French or Spanish, should be submitted for selection to Contributions will be on a voluntary basis. 

The following information should be included with the abstract: 

  • Title of submitted paper 
  • Name(s) of author(s)
  • Professional background

The abstract submission deadline is 15 August 2020. 

The abstracts received will be examined on a blind review basis by a panel of experts on the topic. 

Museum International is currently published in English and Chinese only. However, proposals in the other two official languages of ICOM (French and Spanish) will also be considered. If your abstract is selected, we will send you guidelines for your full article, which you will be given approximately two months to complete. You may also submit your full article in either English, French or Spanish. 

Abstract structure for Museum International articles: 

An abstract is a summary of the journal manuscript. 

It should be no longer than 250-300 words, and provide a succinct overview of the article. 

The abstract should read as a standalone document. 

Abstracts sent to Museum International should include the following sections: 

  1. Introduction: describes the overall topic dealt with in the article and provides background to the study.
  2. Research question(s)/Critical issue(s): explains the key research question or critical issue, by stating the problem addressed. It should also highlight the gap in existing research on the topic.
  3. Innovation: explains the approach to the research question/issue, and the new perspective adopted.
  4. Methodology: explains how the research was carried out (e.g. case studies, interviews, etc.) or the means used to address the critical issue.
  5. Conclusion: outlines the impact of the research or the outcome of addressing the critical issue, and why the findings/outcomes are important.
  6. Selected references: a selection of the references that will be cited in the article.