The Collection Study Center (CSC) is located on the site of the previous Museum of Art WSU, within the Fine Arts Center of the WSU Pullman campus. A generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation made the dream of a Collection Study Center for the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art WSU’s permanent collection a reality.

Focus of the Permanent Collection:

The purpose of the permanent collection is to preserve and make accessible an artistic legacy of the 20th and 21st centuries. The goal is to provide a foundation of key styles that represent the ever-changing face of art for our students, visitors and scholars, in part as a context for approaching new forms we can only begin to imagine today.

Making selected works from the permanent collection accessible through open storage solutions, this new gallery has become the museum’s intersection for academic research, scholarly exchange, interdisciplinary collaborations, academic courses, student research and professional training. This gallery provides researchers, students, faculty, staff, and our community access to the teaching collection of the museum, while protecting and preserving each item kept for the public trust, in an open, viewable vault environment.

Our permanent collection of approximately 3800+ objects resides in a facility which now offers a storage system providing enhanced preservation through less collection movement, and added storage space to keep all collection objects properly inventoried and cared for. The CSC allows for new acquisitions to find permanent home locations in the spacious carriages, vertical bins, and flat files. Collection processing has been positively impacted by the ability to fully unpack new donations into these permanent home locations, as opposed to the previous need for temporary storage due to a lack of space in our vault.

The New System in the Collection Study Center Includes 3 Main Components:

The Art Work Storage System 1 is designed to store a mix of framed and unframed artwork and objects in rolling carriages. This “museum grade” system features a roller guided drive system providing the least amount of vibration and friction in the industry, therefore providing a longer system life and greater preservation and protection. The system provides 4,458 cubic feet of storage, or a 79% increase in capacity over the previous storage system, giving ample room for future collection growth.

The Art Work Storage System 2 has been designed to store framed artwork and will be used for oversized works. The system uses moveable double-faced artwork storage racks that allow curators to store artwork so that they can be seen from an open aisle. The artwork storage racks allow for easy access to the artwork as well as providing an opportunity for an open storage environment, contributing to a balance of effective user access and preservation, as the artwork can easily be seen without handing the collection. The system provides over 5,200 square feet of open storage, or an estimated 50% more storage space than the previous configuration.

Lastly, Museum Cabinets provide sufficient flat file storage for unframed artwork. Increasingly a growing segment of the permanent collection, unframed works on paper, may be stored efficiently and safely in these dust-free, secure cabinets. Half of the cabinets are mounted on lockable casters allowing for relocation when necessary. The other half are in fixed carriage locations.

About University Museum Collections

Collections are held in trust for the public and possession of collections incurs legal, social and ethical obligations to provide proper physical storage. We believe in advanced collections stewardship through the careful, sound and responsible management, and storage of the historical objects we keep for future generations.

At the Collection Study Center, we have seen increased efficiencies in the use of the permanent collection toward future exhibitions. The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art WSU offers 10,000 square feet of exhibition space, accommodating a wide range of exhibition types and formats, everything from new projects and experimental works to surveys and retrospectives. One of the largest galleries, the Wright/Harmon Gallery, was envisioned as a space dedicated to the museum’s permanent collection. It has been the first time the museum has the space to continually exhibit works from the collection, significantly increasing access to the museum’s holdings.

Phase 2 of the Collection Study Center

In addition, we envision in Phase 2 of the CSC project a gallery/study room where degree-seeking museum students will have a space to practice curation and public programming, but to also bring collection objects out into public view.

The Collection Study Center offers an efficient work environment for curatorial research and exhibition preparation. Collection objects are readily accessible for comparison to other related works from open storage systems, allowing curators and student curators to examine original works on visible art racks and large movable table surfaces. The CSC includes ample wall and table space for cleaning and conservation of paintings, prints and sculptures that have been selected for exhibition checklists. Photography of objects in exhibition queues occur in a dedicated photography area. Flat files containing works on paper are conveniently located in proximity to large flat work areas with framing equipment nearby. Our digital collection software offers an effective searchable database. Pairing the search results with the ability to quickly see the work, in an open, accessible storage environment, is the single best criteria toward formation of curatorial themes and concepts drawn from the permanent collection.

Community Access | With the Collection Study Center, we have seen heightened community access and utilization of the collection. Previously this type of outreach was restricted to class groups as we lacked the infrastructure to promote our shared resource more fully. Currently we open the CSC by appointment only, but as the program grows, it may be possible to staff the collections area to maintain regular hours, providing access to the collection and student-curated exhibitions.

Faculty Partners | Additionally, the curatorial team have implemented a series of orientation workshops geared to campus faculty partners. The goal of these orientations have been to help faculty find ways to utilized collection access to support their curricula and teaching goals. We’ve already heard from many departments on campus about their enthusiasm for adapting object-based learning strategies into their pedagogy.