A New Home for PAFA’s Works on Paper and Archives

The fifth floor of PAFA’s Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building has been transformed from an unused storage space into an active, vibrant place for students – and soon for art scholars, with a state-of-the-art dedicated space for the storage and care of works on paper as well as ephemera and archival materials dating back two centuries.

The consolidation of the Works on Paper Collection and the PAFA Archives into a single storage space brings together two invaluable resources of scholarship on American art history and artistic training. A painstaking effort in the early spring involved moving some 14,000 items from the crowded subterranean vaults of the Historic Landmark Building into their inviting, climate-controlled new home next door.

“The archives moved first, then the framed works on paper next, then pastels and charcoals, then boxes, and lastly the flat files,” said Jennifer Johns, the museum's Associate Registrar. “The new storage room is set up like a box within a box, which is the best way to do it.”

For most of of the approximately 10,000 works on paper in PAFA’s collection, the process included examining the condition of the works and creating custom-made boxes for the move. Many of the boxes were outfitted with bumpers to prevent any jostling during the brief excursion across Lenfest Plaza.

About a fifth of the works on paper – 2,000 items – are framed, many dating from the mid-20th century. For those pieces, the stability and execution of the framing and matting were also examined before being moved.

The relocation project also has created additional room, allowing PAFA to grow its collection for many years to come and provide space for hosting class groups, scholars, and academic symposia.

“We’re aiming for June in terms of people being able to come in,” said Johns. “The climate in the new storage space needs to settle to a certain temperature and humidity level.”

Written by JoAnn Loviglio

April 19, 2016

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