Guide to Properly Design Your Museum Collection Storage

Expanding Your Museum Storage? Here’s How To Choose the Right Storage Solution

museum storage for current & future collectionsWhile a museum patron may be blown away by the number of pieces a museum has on display, the truth is that most museums are only able to showcase a fraction of their collection. The majority of their pieces require careful and well-designed storage. Is your museum opening a new storage facility, renovating your current storage space, or moving into a larger facility? Then you have a wonderful opportunity as well as a big responsibility to create (or recreate) a museum storage space that will protect your collection while saving room for future growth.

If you aren’t quite sure where to begin re-imagining your museum storage design, here are some helpful steps to consider.

Start With the Items in Your Collection

The right museum storage system for your organization will depend heavily on the components of your collection. For example, storing paintings varies dramatically from storing historical clothing, rock samples, or insect collections. Think about whether you might want to invest in painting storage racks, garment storage racks, or geological storage cabinets.

Does the Collection Require Special Storage Considerations?

museum collection storageMany of the items stored in museums are delicate or need to be stored in very specific conditions. For example, historical photos and other film-based photographic materials deteriorate quickly under suboptimal conditions. The best way to preserve them is to store them in cold temperatures. Likewise, paintings, sculptures, and historical artifacts may be damaged by too much sunlight. Your museum storage space needs to be able to store your collection in ideal conditions to help preserve all your valuable pieces.

Understand the Function of Your Space

Perhaps the primary function of your museum storage room is, well, storage. However, many museums use their extra space for a variety of different purposes, including educating students, restoring pieces, and studying items in the collection. In fact, the function of a museum – to exhibit, educate, and support research – actually dictates the need for collections rather than the collections existing as their separate entities. If you want to include classrooms, areas for research, and restoration working spaces along with your storage space, you must consider that when organizing your museum collections.

Clarify Your Museum Storage Standards

What is the purpose of your museum collection storage system? Do you want to create long-term storage or short-term storage? Do you want the ability to quickly and easily rotate collections in and out of exhibitions? The purpose of your storage will dictate what types of storage solutions are ideal for your museum. Before you choose your storage, clarify how you want your museum storage to fit in with the rest of the functioning of your museum.

Understand Your Space Limitations

mobile compact storage systems for museum collectionsHow much space can you actually dedicate to storage? The amount of space you have available will play a big role in what your museum storage design will look like. For example, if your space is limited, then high-density shelving may be a good option for your museum. High-density storage systems place new or existing shelving on tracks that will eliminate unused aisle space and can cut your overall storage space by half or more. Of course, optimizing your space must also fit with how you plan to use your pieces.

If you need to access your pieces every day, then high-density storage may not be the right option for you. However, if you only rotate pieces in and out of your exhibits every so often, high-density storage could be ideal for your museum.

Make Sure to Plan for the Future

If you only design a storage plan for the exact number of pieces you have, you’ll end up facing the same storage problems shortly. Most museums continue to grow their collections over time. If you plan to make a big investment in your museum collection storage, consider your storage needs for the next several years or even the next decade. Plan to include space for all the pieces you have now as well as the pieces you may acquire in the future. Determine how much your collections have grown in the past. That can help you project future growth depending on your goals and future budget projections.

Additionally, if you plan on expanding into different types of collections – say, botany collections to go along with your entomology collections – it will be best to invest in customized storage for those pieces or at least to include room to expand your current storage collection.

Be Clear on Your Budget

Compact Mobile Shelving for Museum Library and ArchivesRevamping or expanding your storage footprint is a big undertaking, so keep an eye on your budget and costs. When you reach out to vendors, let them know your goals and your budget upfront so they can give you a recommendation that won’t put you in the red.

At Southwest Solutions, we are happy to work within your existing storage budget. We’ve helped countless businesses save money and space as they update their storage. For example, a museum in Oklahoma was constructing a new building to store more than 100,000 rare books, documents, maps, and unpublished works. The museum reached out to us to help them save on building costs. We created a plan that included compact mobile shelving, which saved the museum 40% of their storage floor space, increased collection storage capacity, and improved the security of their archives.

Let Us Help You Upgrade Your Museum Storage Standards

You don’t have to figure out organizing museum collections on your own. At Southwest Solutions, we are here to help you create the best storage plan possible for your needs and budget. We can recommend the right storage option for your collection and make sure it meets your needs and standards. Our outstanding design team will optimize the storage plan to meet your usage needs, and our installation team will ensure that the shelving is installed correctly so that your collection is safe. We believe that good organization is the foundation of a healthy museum ecosystem.

Contact us today for a price quote. 

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