The Honorable the Members of the Board of Regents


Carole Huxley


Cultural Education


Collections Stewardship


November 21, 2003




Need for collection space and environmental controls


Goals 4 and 5




The extensive and valuable collections of the State Archives, Library and Museum are at risk in their current storage environment.  In addition, these collections, as well as the active records that the Archives manages for all State agencies, have outstripped the available storage space.  Off-site storage has provided a partial short-term solution to the latter problem, but is inadequate for long-term projected needs.

At your December meeting, the Committee will review the current status of collections stewardship, the expert panel’s initial recommendations for moving forward, and the steps that staff expect to complete before coming back to you with a set of options to address the situation in May.

Attached to this memorandum is the preliminary report of the panel and a background piece that provides detailed information about the collections and their use.








On September 24, 2003, the Office of Cultural Education (OCE) invited a distinguished panel of experts to advise us on our collection stewardship needs and facility plans. They were:


·           John Egan, Panel Chair, President of the Renaissance Corporation, former CEO of Albany International Airport, and Commissioner of OGS from 1980 to 1989. Mr. Egan was instrumental in the construction of the Empire State Plaza including the Cultural Education Center (CEC).

·           Brenda Banks, Assistant State Archivist, Georgia Department of Archives and History. Ms. Banks led the development and construction of the Georgia Department of Archives and History’s new archival facility opened in June 2003.

·           Meredith Butler, Director of Libraries, SUNY Albany. Under Ms. Butler’s leadership, the University at Albany built a new library.

·           Vince Wilcox, former Director of the Smithsonian Museum Support Center (MSC).  Mr. Wilcox was involved in the design, development and construction of the MSC, which houses museum collections and archival and library materials.


The charge to the Panel was to:


1.      Review staff’s assessment of OCE’s facility needs, especially as they relate to collection stewardship.

2.      Provide advice regarding the development and implementation of a facility plan that will meet those needs. 



I.  Findings


Based on materials sent to the panelists and tours of three of OCE’s major facilities, the Panel members reached the following conclusions:


1.      OCE staff has done an extraordinary job of collection stewardship. Vince Wilcox noted: “The staff are a highly specialized and valuable resource that must be cultivated…. Without them, the collections are just a bunch of things.”


2.      OCE staff has accurately assessed the current facilities’ inadequacy to meet the needs of many of the collections both, now and in the future.*  The Panel took particular note of the: (1) New York State Records Center, (the storage facility for inactive paper and electronic records for State agencies); (2) the Museum Storage Facility in Rotterdam, NY; and (3) the Cultural Education Center (CEC).  


·           State Records Center:  The lack of storage space in the State Records Center has reached crisis proportions.  The loss of staff that physically handle records (from 9 people in early 1990’s to 3 in 2003) has compounded an already dire situation.  For the Archives to continue to provide a cost-efficient and adequate records management service to State agencies, additional space quickly must be found and staff levels increased.


·           Museum Storage Facility at Rotterdam:  This large, non-insulated warehouse is inadequate for collection storage.  Problems include a leaky roof, sub-standard environmental controls, and insufficient numbers of staff to manage the collections. Many objects (e.g. furniture, mixed media) stored in the Rotterdam facility because of insufficient CEC space are especially at risk of damage and deterioration because of the lack of environmental controls.


·           Cultural Education Center (CEC):  It is clear that the Education Department and OCE staff have made impressive – and, many times, successful -- efforts to ensure that collections are properly stored in the CEC.   However, it is equally clear that this 27 year-old building has become increasingly inadequate in terms of providing collection space that will meet professional museum, archival and library standards.  In addition, the CEC is used in a multifunctional way and several of those functions are not compatible with proper collections storage. 


During the Panel discussion, John Egan noted that the CEC needed major “re-engineering,” while Brenda Banks spoke of the facility as being “functionally obsolete.”  In a follow-up letter to Carole Huxley, Vince Wilcox notes: “not only do you not have sufficient space to carry out your functions, but the space you do have is inadequate to the tasks.” 



II.  Recommendations


Based on it findings, the Panel recommended the following:


1.      Facility planning must grow out of program plans.  OCE should undertake a functional analysis of its needs and a reappraisal of its programmatic and collection management decisions.  Questions to be answered include:



Ø      What areas of our programs and collections overlap, in what areas are we (or should we be) reliant on each other, and in what areas do we have very disparate needs and requirements?

Ø      To what extent, and in what ways, do the three institutions currently work together?  Are there other ways that would be mutually beneficial?

Ø      How does that impact facility needs?

Ø      What part does physical location play in supporting the missions of the institutions?  For example, to what extent does it matter if the collection facilities are a number of miles away from the public spaces?  What would be the staffing and cost implications of such a separation?


·           Who are our users?  What do they want from our services, programs, and collections?


·        What are the basic programmatic decisions that affect how the institutions fulfill their respective missions?  Do these decisions need to be reappraised, and if so, how?  How does this programmatic reappraisal affect facility planning?  For example, do current advancements in technology change the way OCE should manage, preserve, and provide access to, its collections?


2.      It is important to think creatively, both in terms of communicating with decision-makers, and in developing viable capital funding strategies.  Panelists advised us to:


·        Articulate a bold vision.  Simply identifying the problems and trying to tell people what they are is not sufficient.


·           Do a better job of “telling our story.”  Decision-makers and other stakeholders need to fully understand:

Ø      The value and importance of the collections.

Ø      The importance of the staff that are involved in the management, preservation, research use of, and access to the collections.

Ø      The fragility of some of the collections, and the risks we are taking if we do not make changes in their storage conditions.

Ø      Why they should care about the preservation of our collections.


·           Explore various options for obtaining funds.


3.      OCE cannot do all of the planning itself.  OCE should undertake a "formal programming" of operations, under the direction of an architect who specializes in such studies. This is a functional analysis of the various components of our operations ("what we do") in conjunction with the specific facility requirements needed to support them (e.g., accessibility, security, environmental controls, spatial relationships among functions), which could be used both to determine the utility of our current facility (for some if not all current functions) and (if warranted) to design a new one. In turn, this could provide realistic data for estimates of funding needs.







III.  Proposed Next Steps


Based on the Panel recommendations, OCE management proposes the following steps over the coming year:


1.      By February 2004, update the OCE strategic plan and undertake a functional analysis of programs and reappraisal of strategic decisions within OCE, particularly as those factors pertain to facility needs.  Ensure that all facility planning aligns with the strategic and operational plans of the three institutions as well as with the OCE Strategic Plan. 


2.      By March 2004, develop and implement a plan that addresses our immediate needs, including the:

·           Completion of the 11th floor renovation (Fall 2004).

·           Acquisition of temporary additional storage for the State Records Center, if a cost-benefit analysis shows this to be advisable.

·           Renovation of the Research Library space in the CEC.

·           Improvement in the environmental controls in the collection storage area on the third floor of the CEC.

·           Filling of important staff positions.


3.      By March 2004, follow up with the Panelists regarding their own experiences.  Specific questions include:

·        How did they work with their respective governments, to reach their goals?

·        What were the funding strategies they used to support their construction plans?

·        How did the construction of their new facilities help support their missions?

·        How did they staff such a move?  If mostly by staff, how did this impact their other duties?

·        How did their construction/move affect public access? 

·       Did they have to close facilities to the public?  If so, what was the public reaction?

·        What part of their project was the most successful, least successful, and why? 

·        What would they have done differently?


4.      By May 2004, present viable funding options to the Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Education.


5.      Hire a facilities planner/architect to conduct a feasibility study, develop a schematic design, and provide rough cost estimates.  Study is to be completed by November 2004.


6.      By November 2004, with the assistance of a consultant, develop and implement a “marketing” plan that gets our message across to both decision-makers and users.











I.  Background


The New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education (OCE) operates three major cultural institutions -- the New York State Museum, State Library, and State Archives.[1]  Under the auspices of OCE, all three institutions are dedicated to ensuring that valuable information, knowledge and collections under their care, are preserved and made available, for current and future generations.  Briefly:


New York State Research Library:  Founded in 1818, the Library provides information services for the government and people of New York State through its direct services and interlibrary loan program.  In the Cultural Education Center, the Library has a collection of over 20 million items, filling 96 linear miles of shelving, and 18,000 cubic feet of manuscripts and other special collections.  Its particular strengths are in law, medicine, social sciences, education, history, certain pure sciences and technology, and New York State documents.  The Library’s holdings include a significant manuscript and rare book collection, as well as holdings in a wide variety of formats, including paper, microform and electronic records.  The Library answers over 123,000 information requests annually, and provides 500 databases for on-site research, and access to thousands of online bibliographic and statistical databases.


The Library also operates the Talking Book and Braille Library (TBBL), which provides reading material (books in Braille and recorded media) to over 54,000 eligible readers,[2] who are visually impaired, physically disabled or learning disabled.


New York State Museum:  The State Museum, with approximately 120,000 sq. ft. in exhibit gallery space, is the single largest tourist attraction for the Capital Region, welcoming almost 1 million visitors yearly.  The Museum’s direct service to the public include a permanent and temporary exhibit program, a full slate of 200 public programs a year, a variety of educational programs for school-aged children, and direct access to collections for researchers and other interested parties.


Since its establishment in 1843, the State Museum collections and staff research provide the basis for its services to the public. On behalf of the people of New York State, the Museum cares for over 6 million specimens and artifacts.  Museum holdings include: natural history specimens in geology, paleontology, zoology, and botany; historical, ethnographic, and archaeological artifacts incorporating wood, textiles, leather, bone, metal, ceramics, glass, stone, and mixed media; visual arts collections on canvas, paper, and film; and paper-based, photographic, and electronic collections documentation. 


New York State Archives:  The “youngest” of the three institutions, the State Archives was created by law in 1971, and began full operation in 1978.  The Archives identifies, accessions, and preserves those records of New York State government that have permanent value, in terms of history, government accountability and research. The Archives houses paper, parchment, photographic and electronic records, now totaling more than 75,000 cubic feet.  Last year, its staff responded to more than 60,000 research requests from government, business and the general public.  Holdings of the Archives include records from all three branches of State Government and document virtually every aspect and era of New York history.


The State Archives also operates the New York State Records Center, which provides State government agencies with secure, cost-effective storage and retrieval services for inactive paper and electronic records.


II.   Current Facilities


Below is a brief review of the buildings currently utilized by OCE.


The Cultural Education Center (CEC):  The public service and exhibit spaces, the administrative offices, and most of the collections of the Museum, Archives, and Library are currently housed in the Cultural Education Center (CEC), an 11-story building located in the Empire State Plaza, Albany, New York. At approximately 1.5 million square feet, the CEC is the largest single building owned and operated by New York State.


This facility, which was planned during the 1960’s, and opened in 1976, has presented us with both opportunities and problems during its 27-year history.  On the positive side, the CEC is located within the major governmental hub in the State’s capital, which has made it relatively accessible to residents, state government workers and officials, and – to a lesser extent – tourists and other visitors.  Its use as: (1) a public space (with Museum exhibit galleries, Library and Archives research rooms, and OCE meeting rooms and auditoriums for public lectures); (2) a collection storage area for all three institutions; and (3) a Museum research facility, has helped to link the research and collections of these institutions with their public programming, educational, and information access services.  Finally, the CEC’s size has made it possible for three major cultural institutions to be housed in the same building, which has aided in encouraging inter-institutional cooperation.


Unfortunately, the building has not aged well, and the CEC’s disadvantages may now outweigh its advantages, especially with regard to collection storage.  The roof, which has already been replaced once, and is being scheduled for a second replacement in the spring of 2004, has created major water leakage problems. In certain areas of the building, the HVAC system is so sub-standard that valuable artifacts and scientific specimens have already been damaged, and many other collections continue to be at impending risk because of improper temperature and relative humidity (RH) controls.  Finally, the physical plant does not lend itself to the expansion needed for collection growth, because: (1) there is very little land for possible additions to the building; and (2) load-bearing restrictions on the floors limit how collections may be distributed throughout the facility.


Other OCE-operated Facilities:  In addition to the CEC, the OCE institutions operate or oversee a number of other collection storage facilities.  These include:


The State Records Center:  The State Records Center, operated by the State Archives, and located three miles from the CEC, is a warehouse facility with the capacity to store 227,000 cubic feet of inactive records for State agencies.


Museum - Rotterdam Storage Facility:  This non-insulated, partially heated warehouse, leased by the State Museum, and located 15 miles from Albany, contains 100,000 sq. ft. of collection space. 


Museum - Fish Collection Facility: The Museum also leases a storage facility to house its collections of fish and other specimens preserved in alcohol and to provide associated lab space.  These specimens were moved from the CEC in order to meet building code regulations related to fire hazards.


Archives - Leased Space:  Due to lack of adequate space in the CEC, the Archives currently leases space from two commercial records storage sites, in order to store its less-used archival records.


Library Storage - State Education Department: The Library stores lesser used materials on 5 floors of stack space in the State Education Department Building.


III.  Needs Assessment


Over many years, OCE staff has valiantly tried to solve the collection storage problems in the CEC and other OCE-operated facilities.  While staff has been successful in some ways, the problems have become so severe in the CEC, the State Records Center and the Rotterdam Storage Facility that these spaces can no longer meet professional standards. The two most acute problems have been that of poor environmental controls and lack of storage space for collection growth. 


1.   Environmental Controls: Collection storage environments that meet professional standards are crucial for ensuring the longevity of library, archival and museum collections.  Specifically, any such collection “should be protected from humidity extremes, high temperatures, high light levels, harmful particulate contamination, and threats posed by the building systems,”[3] as well as water leak damage, and mold and pest infestations.  While OCE staff experts have been able to successfully address most of these threats, the HVAC problems in the CEC cannot be resolved without massive and very expensive building renovations.


The Eleventh Floor of the CEC:  Since the CEC’s opening, the collections and shared reference room of the State Archives and the Library’s Manuscripts and Special Collections division were housed on the 11th floor.  A 1994 external feasibility study identified the inadequacies of this space for storing archival, manuscripts and other special collections, especially with regard to HVAC system problems.


Due to major fiscal constraints, OCE was not able to begin actual renovation work on the 11th floor until February 2001, with an allocation of $7.5 million, (the estimate from the 1994 feasibility study).[4]  This project, (with an expected completion date of Fall 2004) will provide temperature and RH levels that will meet professional standards for these primarily paper-based collections.  Unfortunately, the renovations have been so long in coming, that the Archives and Library – which are temporarily located on the 3rd floor during the 11th floor construction -- will be faced with space problems almost as soon as the project is completed. (See below for further details.)


The Third Floor of the CEC:  The Museum’s collections, currently housed on the third floor of the CEC, are at critical risk of damage because of the HVAC problems.  There are a number of reasons for this:


1.       HVAC Control Problems: The facility’s HVAC control systems do not work in a way that provides proper controls for particular areas in the building.  There is no simple one-to-one relationship between thermostats, existing partitioned storage spaces and HVAC controls, especially in the Museum’s collection storage areas on the third floor. In fact, attempting to stabilize the temperature and/or RH level in one area often has led to fluctuations in other areas. In order to address this problem a tremendous rerouting of ductwork, and patchwork on the external walls, would have to take place.


2.       Spikes in Temperature/RH Levels: For reasons that the building engineers have not been able to understand or solve, major fluctuations in temperature and RH levels occur with erratic – and dangerous – frequency in the third floor collection areas.


3.       Temp/RH level requirements differ depending on the type of collection:  The wide variety of collections held by the Museum (from biological specimens, to fossils, to fragile Native American artifacts to fine furniture), require a number of distinct temperature and RH combinations. Even should we be able to renovate the 3rd floor’s HVAC system, it is exceedingly unlikely that we would be able to fine-tune the temperature and RH levels to provide the optimum protection for each medium represented in the collections.


In the late 1990’s, the Museum explored the possibility of renovating the third floor and a portion of the Basement.  Even at that time, it was estimated that a complete renovation of the 3rd floor that addressed the environmental problems would cost $10-15 million.


State Records Center: The areas at the Records Center that house unstable media such as electronic tapes must be retrofitted with updated environmental control and monitoring equipment.


Rotterdam Storage Facility:  The Museum’s Rotterdam facility provides adequate shelter from the elements for a portion of the Museum’s collection (e.g. core rock samples, historical vehicles and architectural elements).  However, due to lack of space in the CEC, the Museum has also been forced to store other collections (e.g. furniture, mixed media) in Rotterdam.  These collections are at risk because of lack of environmental controls.  


2.   Space for Collection Growth:  All three OCE institutions have developed their own collections policies, including the criteria they use to guide collection acquisitions. Based on these criteria, and past experience, each institution has projected its collection growth needs. (It is worthwhile to note, that previous projections made by the Museum, Archives and Library over the past decades have proven to be quite accurate). 


OCE’s10- to 15-year collection growth projections indicate collection growth in each institution will far out-strip the space available in the CEC and the Records Center.  While these predictions are dire enough, further internal analysis indicates that, in fact, the situation is even more serious.


State Records Center: The State Records Center, located at the State Office Building Campus, is currently at 104% capacity.  Its space problem has become so critical that staff has been forced to store 8,000 cubic feel of records in aisles and office space. 


Archives: In 1991, Archives staff projected that the proposed renovation of the 11th floor would provide enough collection space until 2006.  Unfortunately, that prediction is becoming a reality.  When the collections are moved back to the 11th floor in 2004, staff expects a two-year respite before the Archives runs out of space again.  Should there be no alternative, the Archives will be forced to lease additional off-site commercial storage space – with environmental controls that are often questionable.


Museum:  Collection growth projections for the Museum are more complex because of the variety of collections in different media.  Once the Archives and Library Manuscripts and Special Collections move back to the 11th floor there will be some room for maneuverability. Even so, Museum curators anticipate that collections storage areas on the 3rd floor will be completely filled by 2006.


The Museum has taken other factors into account in its collection growth projections:


·           As noted above, the Museum also has collections in two leased facilities (Rotterdam Storage Facility and the Fish Collections Facility). Any facility plan will probably include the relocation of these collections.


·           In addition to the Museum collections already mentioned, it is very likely that the Museum, in partnership with others[5], will be establishing an Albany Archeological Center in the next few years, which could be located either its own facility or as part of a larger Museum and/or OCE facility (see Section 5).


Library:  The Library is in a slightly better situation, in that it anticipates managing within its allotted CEC space until 2007.  In order to do so, however, the collections of the Archives and Library Manuscripts and Special Collections must return to the 11th floor on schedule, allowing the Library to shift major collections from one area to another.

* See the appendix, “Collection Stewardship Needs Assessment” for additional details.

[1] In addition, OCE provides statewide leadership and support to libraries and library systems, local governments, historical societies and other records repositories, and public broadcasting stations.  Annually, it administers a $100 million State library aid program, grants $13+ million to the public broadcasting stations in the State, and provides approximately $10 million in competitive records management grants to local governments.

[2] Includes approximately 39,000 at-home readers, and 15,000 students who receive materials through their schools.

[3] Lull, William, Conservation Environment Consultation Report and Renovation Program for the Archives and Library Manuscripts/Special Collections.  Garrison/Lull, Inc. (1999).

[4] Final costs for the renovation may total more than $7.5 million, since this is the original 1994 cost estimate.

[5]The partners of the Museum are the University at Albany, the Albany Institute of History and Art, the Albany Visitors Center and the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.