An Introduction to Rehousing
Rehousing is the process by which objects in collection storage are stabilized using interior and exterior supports through the creation of a storage mount. Rehousing is essential to the proper care and protection of museum collections, as rehousing helps minimize the deterioration of objects. The ten agents of deterioration that have been identified in museums as potential risks to museum collections are below:
- Physical Forces (gravity, vibration, pressure, abrasion)
- Thieves and Vandals
- Fluctuating Temperature
- Fluctuating Relative Humidity
- Radiation (light, ultraviolet, infrared)
- Dissociation (loss of objects or object-related data)
In rehousing a museum collection, the risks of many of these agents of deterioration are reduced. Rehousing with the proper materials not only supports the object in storage, but also minimizes gravity, vibrations, and other physical forces from disturbing the object, and greatly reduces the need to handle objects directly. The use of acid-free and archival materials in rehousing can deter pests and limit the risk of pollutants from entering the collection storage space. Storage mounts with protective barriers, such as lids or polyethylene bags, can reduce the risk of water, fluctuating temperature and relative humidity, radiation, and potentially fire. In addition, the possibility of dissociation, or the loss of objects or object-related data, is reduced when objects are rehoused in storage mounts that are properly labeled. The rehousing process may also identify those objects that may have been stolen or vandalized, allowing for museum staff to conduct the necessary actions to return or restore the object. Moreover, rehousing allows for objects in a collection to be easily accessible for researchers and museum staff.
Rehousing at the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum
The Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum has served as a teaching museum of the Johns Hopkins University, the greater Baltimore community, and the general public since its founding in 1882. The mission of the museum is “to engage members of the Johns Hopkins University, academic researchers, and both the Baltimore and worldwide public in an interactive, interdisciplinary, and collaborative study of the ancient world through the examination, research, exhibition, and conservation of archaeological objects.” The museum has over 10,000 objects that have significant research and study potential. A major renovation that began in 2007 and was completed in 2010 enabled the museum’s collection to be showcased in a new exhibit space that fosters the museum’s mission as a place of study, teaching, and research. While the new space displays many of the objects in the collection, there remain thousands of objects in storage in need of rehousing in order to not only make them accessible for viewing and research, but also for their long-term care and preservation. A grant awarded to the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum in October 2014 by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has enabled the museum to rehouse and photograph the entire collection, making it accessible both in the museum and online for the first time and ensuring the collection’s preservation.