Hearst Museum closes for retrofit, renovation

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The Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology closed Sunday to begin a project to re-organize the museum’s inventory, which has also prompted additional renovations to the museum.

During the two years it will be closed, the museum will begin its collections-move project, which will cost the campus $4.2 million, according to a campus press release. Through the project, the museum’s underground storage space will be retrofitted, and its stored inventory will be re-organized.

After the move, the museum’s inventory will be stored in the UC Berkeley Regatta Art Collections Facility in Richmond and in a renovated space under the museum. Artifacts will no longer be stored in the Hearst Gym on Bancroft Way, and while this location has served the museum for a long time, the regatta facility will provide more appropriate storage conditions for the school’s artifacts, according to Penny Betts, head of development at the museum.

The museum will also spend time cataloging and maintaining its collections, according to Christine Shaff, communications director of the campus’s Facilities Services Department.

“The regatta space will be better suited for storage for the kind of artifacts and materials that they have (at the museum),” Shaff said.

According to Betts, the climate-controlled regatta facility will not only provide appropriate conditions for the collections, but will also provide easier access to artifacts, because it will be modified to improve its accessibility.

“We came specifically for the native Californian cultures exhibit,” said Elena Tarango, who came from Sacramento to visit the museum for the first time on Friday. “It was neat to see some of the things here and to know that they’re kept safe.”

Although the museum will be closed for two years, this will not affect the current museum staff, and in fact, 15 additional staff members have been hired to help with moving the collections.

The museum has also announced that its facilities will undergo renovation during the collection-move project. The renovations will be privately funded and will include improved museum galleries, a new welcome center, an updated entryway and a number of additional improvements.

The opportunity for the renovations presented itself when it became apparent that seismic retrofitting as well as improvements to the underground storage space would be necessary.  According to Shaff, plans for the renovations have not yet been approved.

“There are a number of steps in this process (of renovating the museum), and we have gone through some, and there are more to come,” Betts said.

During the move and renovation, there will be a two-year moratorium on loans, acquisitions, research, classes held in collections areas and new publication photography. However, the renovation will not affect the classrooms in Kroeber Hall, which houses the museum.