Call it a museum makeover.

The textile collection of the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation is getting a makeover thanks to RE-ORG Canada, a program that aims to help maximize storage space and make artifacts easier to find. 

'Good storage is really important because you're entrusted with peoples' artifacts.'
— Lesley Caseley, Community Museums Association of P.E.I.

"It's a great chance for us to have a look at our collection," said Jason MacNeil, collections management technician for P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation.

"It's a great chance for us to learn some more strategies and techniques in storage organization."

MacNeil said those delivering the program are among just a handful of people across the country with the training to do this type of reorganization.

"This is a really valuable opportunity for our museum and staff," said Linda Berko, curator of collections and conservation for the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation.  

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Lesley Caseley and Berta Madrigal Abaroa are sorting textiles as part of the RE-ORG Canada project. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

'Valuable opportunity'

Museum storage is a challenge around the world.

The RE-ORG methodology was developed in Europe by ICCROM and UNESCO. It was piloted in Canada last year through the Canadian Conservation Institute, and now the program has expanded to Atlantic Canada — including two participants from P.E.I.

"Good storage is really important because you're entrusted with peoples' artifacts, what have become artifacts — part of their memories, part of their families," said Lesley Caseley, director and training coordinator of the Community Museums Association of P.E.I.

"So having good storage for those and being able to be responsible for them is really important."

The Community Museums Association of P.E.I. includes more than 30 small and medium museums across the Island.

"Museums are always bringing things in," Caseley said.

"Sometimes collections have been around 50 or 60 years, and maybe something has been in storage for a while because it hasn't come up in an exhibit, and museums are running out of space. And so it's really good to focus on the storage solutions — and easy simple ideas that they can do to make their collections more accessible."

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Curator Linda Berko and collections technician Jason MacNeil look at some of the unused space they'll use to hang textiles as part of the reorganization. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

A storage issue

P.E.I. has a high-profile storage issue.

The P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation has more than 80,000 items of historical significance now being stored in the West Royalty Industrial Park. A provincial museum has been under discussion since 2008 but has never materialized.

The RE-ORG project, which started in October, will last one year.

Already the museum staff and volunteers are making a difference.

"So we have all the blankets, quilts and coverlets and we've photographed them for ID," MacNeil said.

"We've separated them now by size because we're actually going to roll them and hang them, which is a lot more practical and a lot better for the textiles because they don't have the folds and the creases."

The textiles will then be wrapped in cotton to protect them from dust and will have an ID picture attached to make them easy to access. All of the textiles will also be added to a database.

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Collections technician Jason MacNeil pulls out one of the many over-crowded drawers of artifacts in the textiles collection. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Sharing their ideas

The two Island participants have been taking part in online seminars with the Canadian Conservation Institute. They'll also take part in a conference in March, where they plan to share what they've learned.

"We're planning a series of lectures and workshops," said Caseley.

"We'll also do some consulting so if they come to us and say, 'We have this specific problem but it wasn't covered in anything you talked about,' we can figure out ideas that will work for them."

There are six museums across Atlantic Canada taking part in the RE-ORG program.