We figured, in the 70 or so years since the Currier opened its doors, a lack of space in the public gallery might mean a fabulous spoon collection, say, had been lugged up the stairs into a cobwebby attic and placed among other dusty, but interesting, artifacts.
We decided to satisfy our curiosity and ask the people at the Currier if we could see their attic. We were told there was no attic, but we were welcome to see the “vault,” where the museum’s not-yet-on-display treasures — including lots of spoons — are kept. In our exploration, we found nary a cobweb nor dust in the immaculate, climate-controlled underground storage area. What we did find was a tremendous effort under way to catalog the contents of all the closets and drawers and racks and bins that fill the area.
Once catalogued, photographs and information about everything you can’t see on a visit to the museum will be available for viewing online (www.currier.org), beginning after the first of the new year.
Every one of the estimated 10-11,000 items at the Currier has been photographed, or soon will be, and entered into a computerized system with a detailed description. “That will be really wonderful for people doing research, or people who just want to know more about what we have,” says Karen Papineau, registrar at the Currier. “We get lots of questions from students, whether we have any Homers or Baroque paintings, for instance. Now, they’ll be able to find that out for themselves; images of everything we own will be available.” Searches can be done by artist, subject, title, and object type. About 30 percent of the significant objects owned by the Currier are on display at any one time, according to Curator Andrew Spahr. “We’re more successful than some museums in presenting our permanent collection; many museums have less than two percent on view.”
The stored objects are as carefully tended to as those on exhibit. Lighting is filtered to reduce damaging ultra-violet and infrared light. The temperature and humidity are kept within a degree or two of 70 degrees with 50 percent humidity.
“Part of our mission is to catalog, organize, care for and preserve the objects on view and those not on view,” says Spahr. “We don’t know what’s going to be important in the future to art historians, scholars, collectors and the public, so everything is treated the same.” NH
Pick up November's NH Magazine for photos of some of the Currier's hidden treasures.
This article appears in the November 2003 issue of New Hampshire Magazine