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Foundation for the Reading Public Museum Announces Plans for new Collections Storage Facility

Reading, PA - Today, the Reading Public Museum announced plans to move its collection storage from its current location to the building at 6th and Penn in downtown Reading, beginning next spring. The new facility, which has most recently served as offices for Wells Fargo, will be consistent with industry best practices for temperature and humidity control, security and monitoring, keeping the collection protected with its long-term preservation in mind in a modernized and functional facility.

“Over the past several years, the Reading Public Museum has faced great challenges at our current location and this move will allow us to better protect the collection from the environmental hazards that are increasingly present at the aging museum building,” said Charles F. Harenza, Board Chair for the Foundation for the Reading Public Museum.  “This move ensures that the Foundation’s responsibility for caring for the collection in accordance with best practices is met, and could eventually lead to a more modernized public facility as well.”

Moving the portions of the collection currently in storage is expected to begin when Wells Fargo vacates the space in April of next year.  The Foundation intends to explore opportunities for future growth at other locations throughout Berks County subsequently.  In the meantime, the current operation will remain open to the public, provided the aging facility remains legally accessible.  Recent damage to the building’s electrical infrastructure has jeopardized this possibility.  The Foundation’s plans for repairing the electrical infrastructure were waylaid by new code restrictions and the associated costs for retrofitting a nearly 100-year old building, and the Foundation asked the Reading School District, which owns the building, to replace the system in September.  While the District continues to consider the Foundation’s request, the lead-time for a new system is estimated at 9-12 months, leading the Foundation to seek a more timely solution in the interim.

Protecting the Collection from the Elements and Disrepair

The new facility will provide for better protection of the museum’s collection. The current facility is located in a floodplain, which puts the collection in peril and poses an unnecessary risk to the safety of employees and visitors. The museum has suffered water damage due to flooding as recently as mid-November.

Furthermore, the current facility is outdated and would require extensive and costly repairs and maintenance to prevent damage to the collection or potential closure to the public.  The Reading School District has not committed to fund any improvements to its building, and changes to code requirements have limited the Foundation’s ability to do so. The planned new space offers modern, safe, and secure facilities and is quickly available, limiting the vulnerability of the collection to another catastrophic event.

Continuing the Legacy of Dr. Mengel with Free Student Admission

The Reading Public Museum was founded by Dr. Levi W. Mengel, a teacher at Boys' High School in the Reading School District. Dr. Mengel sought to use his personal collection in his teaching to encourage his students’ active participation in their learning. In 1907, the third floor of the Reading School District administration building was converted into a museum to provide students with exciting hands-on learning experiences.

From the legacy of Dr. Mengel, the Reading Public Museum maintains a commitment to provide free field trips to the schoolchildren of the Reading Public Schools, which has and will remain unchanged.

Protecting the Collection in the Public Trust

The Foundation for the Reading Public Museum has had a long partnership with the Reading School District, but in past years the district has threatened to sell the collection to meet its own financial obligation, and it has not provided necessary funding to upgrade and fix many parts of the building. When facing reaccreditation by the Alliance of American Museums (AAM) nearly 20 years ago, collections storage was cited as a reason for a lengthy delay in approval.  At that time, the Foundation conducted a capital campaign to renovate sections of the lower level at the main museum building into collections storage spaces, and relocated items to its main campus from the Thomas Ford Elementary School building where they had been stored since the days of Reading School District management of The Museum.  Recently though, flooding of the building has impacted spaces on this level of the building, and as AAM reaccreditation again looms, the Foundation is taking proactive measures to prevent another delay in approval.  Through these challenges, the Reading Public Museum has continued to serve the students of the Reading School District free of charge, and this commitment will continue.

About The Museum: The Reading Public Museum is a dynamic center of lifelong learning and discovery that educates, enlightens, and engages current and future generations through the collection, preservation, and interpretation of objects of art, science, and civilization. Web: www.readingpublicmuseum.org

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December 20, 2021


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