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Team Earthquake Mitigation

Hello MOA fans, we are Ida and Stephanie, two summer interns in the conservation and collections labs, respectively, here at MOA. Ida is an objects conservator who holds a Master’s degree from the Art Conservation Program at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.  Stephanie will be starting the second year this fall of her Master’s degree in Arts Management at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon. Her concentration is in Museum Studies.

About three weeks ago, we were tasked with the challenge of designing, creating and implementing a solution for earthquake mitigation in storage. As it currently stands, some objects in Three Dimensional (3D) Storage here at MOA are not prepared for such an occurrence. Since MOA is situated in an earthquake zone, it is essential that all the objects in its care are safely stored and displayed in a way that can withstand a seismic event. Disaster preparedness in general is a great concern for all museums. Preventative measures are important to implement when necessary and possible.

We were presented with the challenge by our supervisors in the Collections Department to totally re-think the current storage strategy in an area of 3D Storage that contains Chinese objects, largely ceramics. We were shown the area under consideration, given photographs of what other museums have done with their storage space, then given options for materials and resources and set free on our own. We were advised to do something that was cost-, time-, and resource-effective. We began by doing some research and essentially just started playing around with pieces of foam, boxes, cardboard and sharp knives. We came up with two prototypes, each one using different materials.  Both prototypes use dividers in a grid system to secure objects from jostling. The first prototype consists of white Ethafoam® dividers; while, the second prototype consists of Blueboard dividers sandwiched between thin black Plastazote® foam (or as we like to refer to them, “Blueboard Sandwiches”). All of the materials we used are of museum quality and cost-effective, as we used scraps from other museum projects.

After designing our prototypes we presented them to our supervisors and consulted them on our plan. They preferred the “Blueboard Sandwiches”. We chose to tackle one unit which consists of 12 shelves and removable trays and set to work from the bottom up.

We’ve been hard at work on this for over three weeks now, and are more than halfway done with the unit in progress. All of the objects look happy in their newly earthquake mitigated home.