UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa .– The Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS) Museum & Art Gallery has been awarded the fourth in a series of grants totaling $ 450,000 from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, which will be used to continue efforts to securely store some of the museum’s collections.
Specifically, the grant will allow staff to complete storage of geological collections with high-end cabinets designed to protect items from deterioration. It will also fund the first steps in securing the museum’s technology collection, which includes historic mine safety equipment, mapping tools, meteorological instruments, and industrial glass-making equipment.
“One of the reasons our collections are valuable is that they serve multiple purposes,” said Julianne Snider, CEO of the museum and art gallery. “We use them for exhibitions, we use them for education and we use them for research. And our researchers come from inside our college as well as outside the university.
Snider said the grant, which is 1: 1 thanks to museum staff and funding, will help secure the last of a geological collection that has been stored in inadequate cabinets for many decades. Many of these specimens, she said, require certain environmental controls to prevent them from degrading.
Snider said the museum’s collection of technology includes artifacts such as the personal laboratory equipment of first university president Evan Pugh as well as items to advance safety in the mining industry. Some items include personal safety equipment and instruments for warning of explosive mine gases. Lots of articles, she said, help tell the story of the college and also the history of the state. Most of the tech collection has been stored in unmarked boxes since 2004. Unpacking those boxes will bring some surprises, she said.
Snider said the EMS Museum’s collections are important for research as well as for historical preservation. Several researchers – including experts from Penn State – are using samples of coal and ore to spot opportunities for extracting rare earth elements from abandoned mines. Other items, such as objects in the art collection, are studied by art historians, materials scientists and archaeologists for art, materials used to create art, and industrial technologies represented in art. Snider notes that much of the art we enjoy today comes from materials from the ground.
Collecting pieces for the tech collection in addition to those still in boxes, Snider said a meteorologist told him the donated instruments – though used only a few decades ago – were unrecognizable to him. Items in this collection include a crystal sun tracker that uses a magnifying glass to etch the path of the sun onto a substrate.
“Without our collection, institutional knowledge would be lost in a very short time, as researchers and educators no longer use this equipment,” said Snider. “But these early instruments form the basis of our modern research.”
Other areas in which the grant round has an impact include:
- use paint and mineral curators to conduct condition assessments of collections.
- develop conservation plans for each collection.
- prioritize the conservation needs of the Steidle Collection of American Industrial Art based on condition, including developing a multi-year schedule for sending paintings for conservation.
- take care of museum collections by avoiding deterioration of objects in museum collections and their associated information.
- implement plans and procedures to organize and relocate the earth material collection based on the requirements of the specimen storage environment and types of minerals in the collection, such as low relative humidity microclimates for them pyrites and halites; containers specified to hold potentially hazardous samples to minimize risk to collection workers and to maximize safe access to samples.
- organize free workshops for museums inside and outside Penn State.