Viewable Storage Facility Project
METC's new Viewable storage facility: Caring for our collection
The Trustees and staff at METC are excited to share the news that construction of the museum’s new Viewable Storage Facility has commenced. We recently announced that METC was awarded major funding for this project from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the New Jersey Historic Trust which means our long-term plan to create a state-of-the-art collections facility is now a reality.
One of the most important functions of a museum is to be a good steward of its collection that is held in the public trust. These artifacts and archival holdings – what many people feel is the heart and soul of a museum – represent the collective history of a people or place. We use our collection to create exhibits that tell us stories about how our nation, our communities, and our cultures came to be; and without museum collections, those stories run the risk of being forgotten. METC’s collection contains approximately 8.900 objects, textiles, archival materials, and other examples of the history of New Jersey’s early immigrants. And now, with all the funding in place, the project is a major priority for the museum staff. The work will slightly limit the public’s access to certain areas of the museum, but we will remain open to all visitors and will continue to hold school field trips, lectures, and other public programs utilizing the museum’s main level as well as our Education Annex.
For nearly fifty years, the major portion of the museum’s collection was housed in a secure area on the lower level of the historic James Library, which has been the museum’s home since 1970. Additional off site storage locations contained some of the museum’s larger objects as well as those that were not often accessed for exhibits. As part of our 2015 long term strategic plan, METC began looking to expand its facility to accommodate increased engagement and addressing the needs of the collection was a goal of that plan. In 2019, the collection, was severely compromised by a mold infestation which was swiftly addressed and remediated. But to save the collection from any further permanent damage, the museum fast tracked the long-range plan to create a new facility that would house the entire collection in a modern, environmentally controlled area in the museum. The first stages of the project were funded by generous grants from the NJ Historic Trust, NJ Historical Commission and the Madison Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust, The Hyde & Watson Foundation, and the Read Foundation. The comprehensive feasibility study, completed in 2021 created a design plan, construction documents, and identified the needed collection storage for the next phase in the creation of this facility.
Working closely with Historic Building Architects our historic architectural consultants, METC contracted with James O’Hara Company, a New Jersey construction firm with experience working in historic buildings. Also on board are Storage Systems USA to fabricate and install the high-density moveable storage system and Crozier Fine Art Handling to manage the rehousing of the collection. We still have a long way to go with this complex and critical project, but we look forward to finally having our collection properly stored and cared for with the added dimension of providing accessibility to the public through our viewable panel which will enable visitors to see the curatorial staff at work and have a glimpse of some of the objects that might not be on display in the museum’s galleries. Most importantly, these pieces of history will continue to be preserved so they can speak for us all and tell the complete stories of the many diverse people who lived and worked here; creating our communities and the place we call home.
We anticipate that the project will be fully completed, and the collection rehoused in early 2024. In the meantime, admission to the museum is by a suggested donation. Although the lower level will not be available, there is still plenty to see and do at METC with our main gallery exhibits, our permanent exhibit and of course, our magnificent history building, listed on both the state and national registers, that is an architectural gem.
Historic Building Architects
John O’Hara Company
Storage Systems USA
Crozier Fine Art Handling
National Endowment for the Humanities
New Jersey Historic Trust
METC Breuhne Trust
New Jersey Historical Commission
Madison Open Space Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust
Borough of Madison
New Jersey Council for the Humanities
Hyde & Watson Foundation