We were able to walk through the main storage spaces for both the Art and Meteorite collections over the past two weeks. The two storage situations are markedly different—Meteorites, on one hand, are primarily kept in a single “clean” room, designed and filtered to remove as many particulates and impurities from the space as possible. To enter, one must don protective gear to ensure one doesn’t contaminate either the space or the specimens, which are contained in five small cabinets and amount to just slightly more than a hundred location records in the Mimsy database. Art, however, has more than ten times that amount of location records in the database. These storage locations are spread over many different buildings here at the University of Alberta, and this doesn’t include any of the public art, or art that has been placed in offices or other spaces around campus.
Beyond the storage locations themselves, the two collections also differ in how the items themselves are stored. Meteorites, again, are contained consistently—while the specimens themselves may be contained in a vial or a box, each one is bagged, and then bagged again along with a label, which is nested in a smaller box with a secondary label. Art, though, varies significantly: paintings and prints may be matted or unmatted, framed or unframed, hung on racks, kept in drawers, or rested on shelves. Sculptures may be shelved in larger spaces, or they may be contained and resting on the floor. Smaller art pieces and artifacts might be shelved, in boxes alone or in multiples, or displayed in their own custom case. Textiles and scrolls may be stored flat or rolled.
Due to this varying nature of the storage situations here at the University of Alberta Museums and Collections Services (MACS), as well as the individualized needs of collections staff and conservation considerations, we have had to come up with a number of possible ways to attach or associate the barcode with each object. Where possible, we hope to incorporate the barcodes into existing labels or inventory sheets, but otherwise will have to affix barcode with hanging tags, or attach them directly onto frames, mats, or storage boxes (where appropriate). These approaches will ensure that barcodes are not directly attached to the object in a way that may compromise or permanently alter it. The final method of attachment for each storage scenario will depend on what we discover during the testing phase of the physical barcoding of the objects, and what collections staff determine is most useful for their own workflows.