GALLOWAY, N.J. - Properly functioning heating, ventilation, and cooling systems are paramount to maintaining objects and artifacts in museums.
And the lack of such well-operating systems is apparently what forced the Noyes Museum of Art here to close Sunday.
"The building was truly an oasis for culture and art in the region for a long time," said the museum's executive director, Michael Cagno, who said he was speaking on behalf of the museum and Stockton University, which entered into a 10-year collaboration with the Noyes Museum of Art six years ago.
"And it is certainly a gorgeous space . . . but at the same time, the function of the museum and its mission will remain, just in a different format."
Cagno said this week that while the building, which had housed the museum's 2,600-piece decoy collection and other works since 1983, had closed, the organization would continue to function. Cagno said a plan was being worked out with Stockton and the museum's board of directors to determine how the collections and artifacts will be distributed among its three satellite locations in South Jersey. Also being decided is how the museum will continue its outreach through projects and programs.
In 2010, Stockton entered into the collaboration, providing money for renovations and upgrades to the museum and to expand the Noyes' presence in South Jersey. While the museum retained its own foundation board and board of directors, Stockton leased the space from the foundation for $1 a year.
The university was integral to the operation and management of the Galloway site, and integrated it into its arts and humanities programs. Stockton also expanded the museum operation to sites including the Arts Garage in Atlantic City and a gallery and shop in Hammonton, and gave the Noyes board $500,000 for improvements for the Galloway property. It promised $100,000 a year thereafter for the term of the agreement.
In recent months, the university decided to no longer fund the Galloway property, saying the museum building had serious structural problems and suggesting the foundation look for a new site. Estimates say further repairs - including one to correct problems with a recently installed but inadequate HVAC system - would cost an additional $500,000 to correct, Stockton officials said.
University officials say the building also has problems with lighting and parking.
The cedar-shingled, multilevel building, which seems to unfold upon the hilly pineland landscape along Lily Lake, just off Route 9, like a rambling Lego structure was the centerpiece of the Noyes tradition in the region. Inside, several galleries were lit by natural light that reflected off the lake or from skylights that beamed sunlight into the other spaces of the design by Philadelphia architect Paul Cope.
The museum opened in 1983 and was commissioned by Smithville Inn restaurateur Fred Noyes, himself an artist, in tribute to his wife, Ethel, who had died unexpectedly five years earlier.
The couple, who founded Historic Smithville, had long envisioned a museum where they could house his works and his collection of thousands of vintage duck and bird decoys, and her collections of 19th- and 20th-century fine and folk art that reflect Southern New Jersey's history and natural beauty.
The Noyeses also wanted the museum to exhibit and promote local artists, and bring the community - including school groups - into the facility to learn about local art and folkways in the maritime region.
"I think the museum well fulfilled that function for a very long time, and should continue to do so," said Absecon writer Judy Courter, who has been a member of the Noyes board of directors for about six years. In 2013, Courter wrote a book published by the History Press and called Fred & Ethel Noyes of Smithville, New Jersey.
The book contains a look inside the founding of Historic Smithville by the Port Republic couple in the early 1960s. Later chapters focus on how Fred Noyes, after his wife's death, continued the couple's plan to create the museum.
The book, which went into a second printing in 2014, says Fred Noyes was approached in the 1980s by Stockton - then Stockton State College - about acquiring the museum. Noyes, who died in 1987, declined the offer, according to the book.
Courter said that when the trustees and the board agreed to enter into the collaboration six years ago, no one was concerned that the museum could end up closing.
"I thought this was going to be a merging of cultural interests. . . . I thought this was going to open up a lot of doors for the museum, but ultimately it did not," Courter said.
Courter said a lot of what is happening with the museum reflects the casino closures in Atlantic City and the dire economic picture in the region.
"But I really do feel that the museum can and should be saved," Courter said. "The building itself has an astounding history, and is a treasure that cannot be replaced."