Saving our Heritage 2019 The key to our future lies in our past—save America’s museum collections

This is one section of a report from the Center for the Future of Museums. See Museums and Society 2019 for the executive summary and links to the other sections.

The Challenge:Edit

This superstruct searches for strategies to keep the over 1 billion objects cared for by America’s museums secure and accessible. Biological collections may hold the keys to identifying and combating diseases threatening people, agricultural animals and crops. Our cultural and artistic heritage gives us comfort and inspiration as we grow as a society and incorporate migrants. Our history provides lessons to help us make wise choices for the future

Help us face this challenge! Add your solutions to the following questions, and pose new questions.

How can museums find ways to provide secure, climate-controlled storage in the face of unreliable power supplies, and staff shortages?Edit

Getting off the grid is key. Its very important to assess what eco-friendly power sources your local area has to offer. Wind and solar are very popular and although they can be expensive to maintain they are essential to caring for collections. Other regions offer other sources though such as geothermal energy. Its even possible in a true pinch to use a generator that takes ethanol.If you get the opportunity to be in a new building or have new construction make the most use of green building. Southern facing windows get the most sun, therefore place collections storage on the cool side of the building. Simple steps work too. Only enter an HVACed space when absolutely necessary. This ensures that all that energy used to control the climate doesn't get lost by people coming and going all day. As much as possible leave the lights off or very dim. Only use full light when necessary to assess an artifact or the room as a whole. Make sure doors seal properly, place towels at the bottom if you have to.

Biological collections have exploded in value as medical and agricultural research companies mine genomic data for solutions to epidemic disease and crop failure. How can we protect taxonomic and tissue collections from theft, while continuing to make them available for the crucial research that may help society?Edit

A large number of museums have closed, creating numerous orphan collections. How do museums, individually and as a field, decide what to rescue, and what disappears into the private realm (or into the dumpster)?Edit

Sophie's Choice comes to mind over and over again as we pare down the collection. When faced with the task of moving an entire museum and its contents you being to see the importance of things a little differently. We over collected in out beginning years and were so concerned with the stigma of deaccessioning that we made the process very difficult on ourselves. Now we have a much easier system, but we still have thousands of objects that we just cannot take with us. In order to find new homes for some of our artifacts, we set up a secure network through our website where institutions could register with us and see what objects we decided to deaccession. Then we ran it like e-bay, but not for money. Accredited and approved institutions could bid on artifacts they felt would work with their collection, but rather than pay us money they had to offer things like carbon credits, donations of food to ReDs patients, to grow a Victory Garden and allow the community to get involved...the ideas that many came up with were endless. It was heartwarming to see the ways in which institutions pledged to not only us and themselves, but their community as well. There are still a few homeless items...and we have so little time left here in New Orleans...