When UTSA implemented its initial COVID-19 response in March 2020, most Institute of Texan Cultures personnel remained at home, awaiting instructions on how they would perform their job functions. For the Museum Collections Manager, Adriana Christian, orders came down quickly: Continue the care and preservation of the museum’s artifacts.
Christian began daily trips to review the collections and exhibits areas. She continued to monitor and log environmental conditions inside the museum. She explained, as conditions approach 70 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of 65 percent, molds can begin growing, adhesives can begin dissolving, and wood can begin warping, among other issues.
When the museum closed to the public in response to the pandemic, the exhibits team had begun installing Fiesta Soul, Fiesta Sole, an exhibit featuring artful shoes from Fiesta fanatics, royalty and personalities. The exhibit’s impressive size meant working with more than 30 individual lenders.
Christian received the loaned objects for the exhibit, and executed dozens of loan agreements. Each lender’s contribution to the exhibit triggered a laborious process to prepare the loan agreement. Christian would generate a document explaining the museum’s purpose for borrowing the items, assessing their conditions, setting an insured value, and detailing other processes such as procedures for returning the item to the lender.
“The objects we have at the institute, and the objects we borrow, are priceless,” Christian said, “not because they’re valuable or expensive, but because these things have captured imprints of people’s lives. We’re being entrusted with objects that define cultures and ways of life, and we have a responsibility to preserve these pieces of the Texan identity.”
Community COVID responses escalated and the 2020 Fiesta Season passed, cancelling the Fiesta exhibit. Christian and her assistant, Giselle Diaz, began scheduling individual pick-ups at the museum to return shoes to the lenders, then began the packing and shipping process for lenders outside city limits.
“The objects we have at the institute, and the objects we borrow, are priceless.”
Adriana Christian, Collections Manager
As public health and safety measures continued, Christian’s work evolved. Various areas of UTSA Libraries and Museum had the opportunity to assess their conditions and needs. Coordinating with library systems, she received upgraded software, enabling her to monitor the museum’s conditions remotely. Combined with other UTSA remote working capabilities, Christian significantly reduced her trips to the museum and out in public.
“The museum’s temporary closure for COVID created a great opportunity to work on things behind the scenes, envision the institute of the future, and start building the foundation for the next generation.”
The institute, the university’s art collection, and the UTSA Library continued to integrate their systems and assets after realignment into a single academic resource. Christian and her team received the assignment to carry out the annual inventory for the art collection, physically accounting for 2,700 individual artworks, dispersed among the buildings, hallways, offices and common areas of UTSA’s three campuses.
“Aligning with these new resources and administrative support is going to make the ITC a fantastic resource for Texas cultural education,” said Christian. “Solid collections, objects, and research materials are a strong foundation for the next generation of the museum.”