With the humidity of the Pocumtuck Valley, and the fact that the Russell Gallery’s paintings are kept in a vault in the basement of the Memorial Building, mold has become a pressing issue.
“The worst thing that can happen to a painting is huge changes in relative humidity and huge changes in temperature,” explained art teacher Robert Moorhead.
According to Mr. Moorhead, the building’s proximity to the water table and a climate control system that “never worked properly” over the thirty years of the gallery’s existence are at fault.
Physical Plant has tried many different approaches to the mold issue, including removing the carpeting in the gallery. However, this issue will not be completely resolved until a new gallery is created.
“A new gallery is going to be built, and a new storage area is going to be built, and according to the architects it will once again be a climate controlled space,” Mr. Moorhead said. “The second thing that I’m sure will happen is as the paintings are moved they will be looked at individually.”
According to Mr. Moorhead, this new gallery will be attached to the Hilson Gallery, and should solve all the mold problems, as it will be above ground level and at grade.
The Russell Gallery was built in 1989 during the original expansion of the Memorial Building. Since then, it has been used to keep the Russell Collection of paintings, including works by John Singleton Copley and Childe Hassam.