I recently visited the the Norman Rockwell Museum and met Venus Van Ness, the museums’s archivist.
We put on cotton gloves, and she showed me the acid-free folders in which each of Norman Rockwell’s tearsheets, letters, and drawings are carefully preserved. The air was perfectly climate controlled to an ideal humidity and temperature.
“My studio doesn’t look like this,” I admitted to her, a little sheepishly.
This was a meeting of two different worlds. One was the World of the Artist, a fear-zone of gummy tape, dog-eared pages, blazing sun, coffee spills, marauding cats and birds, and slumping portfolios.
The other was the World of the Archivist, a temperate safety realm, where a piece of paper has a shot at immortality.
Can these two worlds meet halfway? I wondered. Most artists will never take such care with their own work, but maybe there are some basic, reasonable things we can do to save a lot of grief for future conservators (assuming hopefully that our work might end up in such a place).
I asked her: Can you give us a list of ten things working artists can do to make the life of future archivists and conservators a little happier?
1. Get art and books out of the basement and attic.
2. Store things flat and unfolded.
3. If you must use commercial tape, remove it as soon as you can.
4. Put paper works in acid-free folders.
5. Photocopy thermal faxes.
6. Sign and date each piece, even sketches.
7. Use pencil rather than pen or marker.
8. Keep art out of direct sun.
9. Shoot your art and store the shots elsewhere.
10. Back up your computer work.