HAMMONTON — Some 300 ducks are nesting in the third-floor storage room of Town Hall.
The ducks — decoys from the collection of Fred Noyes — are among about 3,000 items from the Noyes Museum collection that were unpacked by volunteers Monday as the museum continues its transition under Stockton University.
“It took a week and a half just to get it all here,” said museum director Michael Cagno, who helped move the collection at the end of December.
The original Noyes Museum on Lily Lake Road in Galloway Township closed to the public in January 2016 after building repairs and problems with the HVAC system made the site too costly to remain.
In August, Stockton officially took over as owner of the museum and its art collection as part of an agreement with the Mr. and Mrs. Fred Winslow Noyes Foundation and the Noyes Museum board.
The foundation owns the Galloway lakefront building, which is up for sale. Paul Striefsky, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway Fox & Roach in Northfield, said the site, which was listed last summer for $895,000, has generated interest but as yet no buyer. The site is zoned residential but had a variance for use as a museum, so it would also need a variance for any commercial use. Striefsky said proposals have included a restaurant and student housing for Stockton.
The museum has shifted its primary exhibit and programming efforts to the Arts Garage in Atlantic City and Kramer Hall in Hammonton, both operated by Stockton. Works also are exhibited at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club, Shore Medical Center and AtlantiCare.
Cagno and Noyes Director of Education Programs Saskia Schmidt said ownership by Stockton has opened up more possibilities for partnerships and exhibits.
Schmidt said poetry and story slams at the Arts Garage have been popular as well as special events. There is a workshop for teachers in Hammonton in March, and a juried photography exhibit opens there Jan. 23. Children’s programs and art classes have been delayed but will start up again. Art supplies in boxes fill metal shelves waiting to be used.
“We have files here that go back to 1983,” Schmidt said.
But most of the collection remained in temperature-controlled vaults at the Galloway site, being cataloged and prepared for the move to Hammonton. A software inventory program was used to set up the space in the Town Hall area so that every painting, print, photo, sculpture and decoy can be tracked.
In June, Stockton signed a lease with Hammonton to rent storage space in Town Hall while a new permanent location is sought. Stockton will pay $250 per month for one year, then $500 per month for another two years.
Cagno said the storage room may not be fancy, but being in City Hall provides the security and temperature control the artwork requires.
A small section of the storage room, blocked off by yellow tape, still houses old computers and boxes of toilet paper. The metal racks holding the art, installed by Stockton, will be covered with plastic to protect the collection from the building’s sprinkler system.
Cagno said they do not yet have a new location in mind, but it must be widely accessible, including via public transportation, an issue that was always a problem with the secluded Galloway site.
Cagno said they are working hard to make sure people know that while the old building is closed, the museum remains open and active at the multiple sites.
Hammonton Mayor Stephen DiDonato said they have been happy with Stockton’s presence at Kramer Hall, and the Noyes has now been even more active in the city’s arts district activities, participating in Third Thursday events and hosting its own events and exhibits.
“Whatever helps them also helps all businesses downtown,” he said, adding he’d be delighted if they chose a permanent location in Hammonton.
For now, most of the art will remain in storage until a permanent site is found. Cagno does not want to move the 400-pound marble statue of a crouching woman more than once.
On Monday, volunteers from Stockton’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service carefully removed bubble wrap from decoys and protective sheeting from artwork, storing the bubble wrap for potential future use.
Victoria Papazacharis, 20, of Marmora, an art major and intern with the Noyes, helped with both the packing and unpacking.
“I had the experience of moving a museum,” she said. “Now I love being behind the scenes.”