A collection is like a living organism, where each part only functions in close coordination with the others. Therefore, the preventive conservation of the works of art that comprise it – integrated into the museum’s planning strategy starting with its very architecture – is carried out on different fronts: the acquisitions policy; the rationalisation and management of the storage spaces, including their sectorisation, climate control, security, good accessibility and equipment of furniture and materials; registration and documentation of the pieces; regular monitoring of the pieces and restoration plans.
A well-preserved and documented collection is a collection that is more accessible to everyone via exhibitions, educational programmes, communications, loans to other institutions and research. But also, it is these requests for loans or availability of pieces that, thanks to feedback gathered, generate the need for new actions of conservation. That is why we believe it is essential to explain publicly, in this section of our website, some of the restoration work being carried out on pieces from the CA2M Collection and the ARCO Foundation Collection.
The building features an air-conditioning system through which it is possible to maintain the humidity and temperature levels required to stabilise and slow down the natural ageing of the materials that make up the pieces.
Environmental conditions are monitored with a Testo Saveris 2 Wi-Fi data logger. Via WLAN, the individual receivers automatically and continuously report the temperature and relative humidity at specific time intervals and send the data to the testo Cloud (online data storage) via its WLAN. They are also equipped with an alarm system in case values exceed or drop below the set values. They are used both on all the floors of the building and in the on-site warehouses, and can be also used inside display cases if necessary.
Our main objective is to keep these values as stable as possible, since one of the basic pillars in preventive conservation is to avoid fluctuations as these can cause alterations in organic and inorganic materials. The building’s design allows a great source of natural light into the exhibition rooms, particularly on the 2nd and 3rd floors, as one of the walls is made entirely of glass. To avoid the accumulation of photochemical effects, the light that enters is controlled by ultraviolet filters, in addition to being monitored with the appropriate light sources and measured by lux meters.
When artworks are moved or transported to an external exhibition, we draw up pertinent questionnaires to ensure that the environmental values that we maintain in our institution will continue to be respected in the various rooms where the loaned pieces are to be exhibited. Artworks on loan are always accompanied by a conservation report that allows us to monitor the piece in terms of time and space. It is a priority that it should be in optimum condition to allow it to be exhibited both in the centre itself and away from it.
The storage – or reserve – area is the space where works of art remain the longest and is also the place with the highest number of artworks in the museum. It is, therefore, a very important area not only for the conservation of the collections, but also for their entire management cycle. A storage area without adequate conditions cannot guarantee the other missions fulfilled by museums, which are based on the generation and transmission of knowledge via their collections. Artworks remain ‘in reserve’ while waiting to be exhibited or studied, and many tasks are carried out during that time: registration, labelling, photography, preparatory work for an exhibition or loan, packing, maintenance tasks, documentation and the occasional visits from different groups. However, and although the situation has been gradually changing since those first storage areas – not much more than storage rooms or even showroom/storage spaces where practically everything was exhibited – it is still fairly common that they are not always given the attention they deserve.
At the CA2M, the storage areas were made part of the architectural project right from the start and have been equipped with everything necessary to fulfil their primary functions. Location, construction materials and cladding, good accessibility from the outside and between internal spaces, security installations, fire extinguishers, air conditioning and loudspeakers and information points were all planned. Similarly, security protocols were established for access, climate control, as well as the moving and cleaning of the artworks.
The reserve area is divided into three spaces according to the format of the artworks; each is equipped with furniture in accordance with this format and complies with preventive conservation guidelines. There are loading racks in one, vertical sliding compartments in another, and flat racks, textile rollers and cabinets in the third. The shelves hold sculptures and installations; the vertical sliding compartments hold framed works (graphic and photographic), light boxes, canvas paintings, boards and other two-dimensional works of various formats; unframed two-dimensional works and artists’ books are kept on flat racks. Metal cabinets with doors are used for storing digital archives and small objects, as well as the rollers are for textiles. Machinery and ladders allow us to reach the highest shelves; specific cabinets hold restoration material; trolleys and carts make it easier for us to move items; large wheeled work tables and different types of lamps and magnifying glasses help us do our work.
To guarantee control and accessibility of the collections we have a code system for the location of each piece, which is labelled manually, both of which are managed with the DOMUS programme.
A fundamental matter regarding reserve areas is foreseeing the growth of the collection. This is important as accessibility to the artworks and their movement, both horizontally and vertically, must be ensured and not allowed to gradually diminis
TRANSPORT AND EXHIBITIONS
The transportation of artworks is one of the most important aspects of preventive conservation. This intermediate step between the loan leaving its usual place and its installation in another location is essential to its conservation, as much deterioration occurs at this point: movements, vibrations, changes in temperature, fluctuation in humidity, etc. The way this is managed is essential in order to minimise all these factors.
This process must include: all the required pre-prepared documentation; a plan of the entire moving process; any necessary auxiliary equipment (special lifting machinery, carts or dollies, straps), the kind of packing materials to be used; the control and security measures (couriers, guards, etc.).
The materials that make up the artwork and its finish are what determine how it will be correctly packaged and what protective materials will be used. Each piece is unique in shape and structure and must be treated accordingly.
At the CA2M we believe it is essential to transport artworks in wooden crates, and sometimes in metal ones. These must be conditioned against vibrations and temperature fluctuations, immobilised inside by using Plastazote® or foam reinforcement. External signage must state any danger, fragility, which way up it must is must be transported and opened, and must also be securely sealed. The crate must not feature any information or photographs of its contents.
We take particular care when it comes to small or fragile artworks. These are packed using special conservation materials, crates and/or folders made of neutral cardboard; this ensures they are perfectly preserved while in our storage area, and when they need to be transported, they are placed in reusable wooden boxes. Avoiding the need to make new wooden crates, except when strictly necessary, helps alleviate the matter of storage as a lack of space tends to be a problem in museums.
Items should always be treated individually before being subjected to group treatment as it is essential to know what types of materials and companies we work with. In this regard, the sector is very professional; top-quality materials for preventive conservation are used, and the companies we employ are specialised in handling of works of art.