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Arctic and Art museums receive over $230,000 to expand online access to archived collections

September 20, 2019

Mindy Leder
Overflow The Bowdoin College Museum of Art and the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum were faced with the challenge of storing massive collections in cramped storage spaces until a federal grant. The grant, from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), amounts to roughly $240,000 and will allow the College to open a new storage space in Brunswick.

The Bowdoin College Museum of Art and the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum were awarded a $239,344 federal grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) last week. The IMLS award description says the museums will use the funds to “improve both physical and digital access to the collections of its two museums.”

The College matched the federal fund with an additional $249,000 to support the project.

In hopes of making the collections more available, the Arctic Museum and the Art Museum plan to upload complete catalogues to a public database and will move portions of each collection to a shared, climate-controlled and newly-renovated storage facility in Brunswick.

According to Susan Kaplan, director of the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center, the College has already renovated a building in “one of the industrial parks in Brunswick” where the objects will be stored. Both museums worked this summer to prepare for the move.

Anne Goodyear, co-director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, believes the building—only 10 minutes from campus—will allow the Arctic Museum, Bowdoin Library and Art Museum to share objects from each collection with classes.

“All of a sudden, we will have a common space that enables us [to] easily make objects available from each of the collections in a single secured space at one time,” Goodyear said.

“We really understand this larger project as being an essential piece of the foundation that makes original objects available to members of this community and the public at large for the sake of developing new knowledge,” she added.

Since the Museum of Art last underwent major renovations and expansion in 2007, its collection has expanded from 14,000 works to nearly 25,000. The growth has prompted the Museum to store works in Massachusetts as well as its on-campus facilities.

Located just hundreds of feet away from the Museum of Art, the Arctic Museum also expressed storage concerns to the College which resulted in artifacts being stored at five separate on- and off-campus locations.

In light of these concerns, both museums, with the help of Allison Crosscup, director of corporate and foundation relations, drafted a grant request to the IMLS that would store art and artifacts locally.

“Unifying the collection under one roof with ideal climate control conditions, is going to save the institution money and it’s going to save us a lot of time,” Kaplan said.

The College had already committed to moving the museums’ collection before the grant was announced.

“Had we not been successful with this grant, we would have made the $240,000 match go as far as it could,” Goodyear said. “But it would have definitely have slowed down our ability to move our objects there [and] it would have slowed down our ability to enhance archival records.”

The museums will use a portion of the grant money to supplement staff salaries. The Arctic Museum plans to hire a full-time curatorial collections management assistant for two years. Other staffing needs will be discussed at a later meeting involving the College and both museums.

The grant will also cover moving costs such as transporting objects currently housed out-of-state back to Brunswick. In addition, the funds will help pay for supplies needed to preserve art, such as acid-free boxes and painting racks.

The IMLS awarded 112 grants ranging from $7,300 to $250,000. Of those, 19 federal grants went to colleges and universities, but only one other NESCAC institution—Amherst College—received funding. Bowdoin, however was not the only Maine institution to receive the grant. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay and the William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum in Rockland also received funding.

“We anticipate over the next academic year to be completing this move and beginning the cataloging, the digitization and the creation of metadata,” Co-Director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Frank Goodyear, said.

The grant funding begins October 1 and the museums’ moving process will begin shortly thereafter.

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