A delicate undertaking
A large but delicate move is happening in the coming weeks at the University of Northern Iowa. Nearly 1,500 pieces of UNI's Gallery of Art permanent collection will be moved from temporary storage to new and improved permanent storage.
The university designated $135,000 of the one-time American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) money to provide more efficient and archivally-correct storage for the permanent art collection. For years, the collection had been stored beneath water pipes in Kamerick Art Building, an accident waiting to happen.
ARRA funds provided for the construction of a false ceiling and drip pan system under the water pipes, the reconstruction of two inefficient rooms into one large space, flooring to accommodate the new moveable shelving on a track system, UV lighting and a small work area to design new exhibits. The shelving material doesn't produce gases that could damage the works.
"The reworked storage area now offers a quarter more space and room for the collection to grow. Both flat media and sculpture can be fit in the space," according to Darrell Taylor, gallery director.
Most of the move will be done by student employees and the job will take several weeks this fall, one cart load at a time.
Though there will be about 1,500 pieces in the new storage area, there are another 1,500 pieces of the permanent collection hung in buildings all across campus. "Part of our mission is for the collection to be viewed, and we do that by having it on display in public spaces on campus," said Taylor.
The first pieces of the collection were donated in the 1910s, but collecting began in earnest in the 1950s. The main criteria for inclusion in the collections is whether a piece enhances the collection, which is primarily contemporary to this century and the last, and whether the objects will be useful to faculty and art historians at UNI.
The most valuable item in the collection is a Philip Guston (1913-1980), valued at $1.5 million if it was on the market, but the permanent collection is never sold. Because the collection is made up of donations, the donor's intent is always honored.
That accident that was waiting to happen? It happened, right after the art was moved to temporary storage to begin the project.
For more about the Gallery of Art, the permanent collection and the building's 25th anniversary year of alumni exhibits, visit www.uni.edu/artdept/gallery.