Yesterday a large group of library employees from CWRU took a field trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum as part of our staff development program for a back-of-house tour of their collections. Emmanuel “Jun” Francisco, the Director of Collections Management, led us through the artifact storage area at the Rock Hall. In fact, only a small number of the artifacts owned by the museum are stored on site–several other off-site storage facilities exist all over northeast Ohio. The scope of the collection is amazing: there was Michael Jackson’s red “Thriller” jacket hung on a rack; John Lennon’s “Sgt. Pepper” costume was carefully wrapped in tissue in a drawer; Bob Marley’s dredlock, carefully cut off by his wife before he underwent chemotherapy for cancer; a little costume from Britney Spears; James Taylor’s first guitar. It just goes on and on.
The most striking thing about the tour was, however, the fact that no one, including the architect I.M. Pei, talked to anyone with any experience with a museum during the design of the building. It is a disaster for a conservator, and the public spaces are a nightmare for crowd control–stairways that go nowhere. Odd little nooks and crannies too small for anything but small exhibits. The staff is clearly desperate for more space, and more appropriate space. But 9/11 caused plans for an expansion to be stalled indefinitely.
The Rock Hall has a current special exhibit about U2–everything you’d ever want to know, plus a lot more. By the end of the afternoon I was suffering from sensory overload, and had to come home and sit in silence for a while.