Relocating the FPV Permanent Collection

Shanna Dunlop, Curator

The curatorial team is in full swing moving the permanent collection to our new purpose built storage area. This storage has been specifically designed to house Fanshawe Pioneer Village’s diverse collection of material culture – ranging from archives (paper documents, photographs and books), to ceramics, and from delicate textiles (bed coverings, clothing, and hangings) to robust agricultural and trades implements and equipment. The diversity of objects in our collection is one of the most exciting aspects for me as a Curator, as it permits the creation of varied and unique exhibits and programming, however, it also serves as one of my greatest challenges in terms of proper storage and conservation.

Consider the assortment of sizes in our collection – from a tiny piece of type or a hatpin, to a large plough weighing several hundred pounds. Then, there is the great variety of materials to take account of – wood, glass, china, ceramic, metals, stone, bone, horn, fur, plastics, fibres, paper….the list goes on! Each type of organic or inorganic material requires a particular environment to remain stable, and maintaining this balance is critical to the long-term preservation of artifacts – especially because this is our main function and priority as a public museum and a community steward.

Metal requires a less humid environment to prevent corrosion, while an extremely dry setting will cause wooden objects (and the adhesives that might hold them together) to become brittle. Large textiles such as quilts and coverlets should not be stored folded, since creases will form permanently as the fibers breakdown. Similarly, clothing should ideally not be stored on hangers, as the weight of the garment will pull, stretch and even tear where the material is under stress.

The FPV collections storage in the new Spriet Family Visitor Centre has been designed and built to address such concerns. Specialized rolled textile racking has been installed to accommodate up to 300 quilts, coverlets and other large textiles. Space saving mobile storage houses a range of acid-free storage boxes that are custom fit to hold textiles, small objects, books and archives and will also hold free-standing larger objects. Fixed shelving and drawer storage hold smaller items such as jewelry and accessories, and a mesh racking system can securely hold framed art and other flat objects.

After each artifact has been moved from its existing location, conserved, registered and photographed, it is safely repacked in appropriate museum grade materials and stored in the system best suited to its material type and preservation needs. With 859 shelves that can hold nearly 3,000 boxes we have plenty of space to fill!

Shanna Dunlop, Curator