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Princeton to build off-campus art storage facility

The first University-owned, off-campus fine art storage facility will be built in order to accommodate the University Art Museum’s rapidly growing collection.

Designed specifically for the purpose of housing art, the 20,000 square foot local storage facility will be located on the University’s Forrestal Campus, according to University Art Museum Director James Steward. The facility will be equipped with climate control safeguards to maintain the appropriate temperature and humidity levels for the preservation of delicate pieces of art.

The Harvard Art Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art have both developed similar off-site storage facilities in recent years.

As a University-owned facility, it will have examination rooms as well as a custom-designed security system to ensure the protection of the collection. The storage location will not have study rooms, Steward said. Instead, art pieces will be brought to the main campus for study if requested.

The Times of Trenton had originally reported that the location of the new storage facility would be kept secret for security reasons.

Erin Firestone, University Art Museum spokesperson and manager of marketing and public relations, said the facility would house about 25 to 35 percent of the museum’s collection.

“The whole point of the collection has always been to give the students and faculty access to the history of the world through art,” she explained. “We’ve been tight on collection storage space for years.”

The concept of auxiliary off-site storage is not uncommon with major institutions throughout the world, she added.

“One of the specific motivations is to enable us to move back to Princeton a very high number of objects that we have been forced to essentially — from lack of space — store in rented commercial art warehouses as far away as Newark and Philadelphia,” Steward said.

Steward further explained that this project would actually bring the collection closer to home rather than sending its pieces away and that their increased mobility would be enormously advantageous especially at times when students, faculty members or visiting scholars need physical access to a piece of artwork that is not on display. The inconvenient location of current storage sites poses a challenge, he said, when artwork needs to be delivered quickly to campus.

The selection of artwork that will be stored in the new building will depend on the artwork’s use, market value and significance. The most important, heavily used art objects will stay in the art museum.

Steward said he hoped that this project would lead to a significant increase in the quality of service that the University can provide to students and faculty who work with the collection.

“This shows that the collection at Princeton is continuously growing, only getting stronger,” Firestone said. “It means that we are filling in the gaps of world history to make a more central teaching and learning tool for researchers on campus. We have staff that are dedicated to not only research and getting access to the collection but also to acquiring more.”

Currently over 92,000 objects that cover over 5,000 years of art are part of the museum collection. Steward mentioned that the art museum brings in about 300 to 500 new works into the collection every year, typically as purchases and gifts from University alumni. The museum frequently rotates objects to showcase about 5 percent of the collection in the gallery at any given time.

Construction is expected to start in July, and the finished facility is scheduled to be up and running by the fall of 2015.

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