Building Storage Capacity

Staff at most cultural heritage institutions describe their collections storage space as inadequate. Reconfiguring, re-housing, renovating, and building anew are all possible solutions. Obviously, space and budget present perennial challenges.

storage at Orange County Historical Museum

Square Footage: If you plan on building new storage estimate the space you’ll need by adding the square footage of your current storage space + estimated square footage for the last 10 years’ of accessions + an additional 20% of square footage. The second figure represents future growth at your current pace, while the third figure accounts for the sudden jump in accessions that is likely once your new space is complete. Potential artifact donors you have attempted to re-route by telling them you cannot accept, based on lack of storage space or an impending move, will try again. New donors will surface as the result of your new space’s publicity.

Budget: Building Museums: A Handbook for Small and Midsize Organizations by Herskovitz, Glines, and Grabitske (Minnesota Historical Society, 2012) suggests an important caution. Even if your building project includes energy-efficient systems, “potential savings may well be offset by the new facility’s larger size. Most expansion projects result in additional annual costs for employees, cleaning and maintenance, supplies, [and] insurance.” (p. 16) To read about several museums which built beyond their capacities to sustain, click here

Most cultural heritage collections could use additional storage space, but institutions are unlikely to fund capital projects, especially in the current economic climate. Here are 3 ideas to increase storage space within your current storage area.

1. Deaccession: If you maintain a regular inventory cycle, you have a good idea of what is in your collection and what objects have either a weak relationship to your institution’s mission or severe condition problems. Depending upon your collection policy, you may be able to deaccession some of these materials, leaving more space for storage.

2. Move office workstation to another area. This will not only free up space, but will also allow you to set the storage thermostat to a cooler temperature, at least during the winter months.

available from Uline and other industrial suppliers

3. Install compact shelving: state-of-the-art mobile shelving units can be cost prohibitive for most institutions. Instead, it may be feasible to purchase sturdy industrial shelving on lockable casters. This is the system the Orange County Historical Museum uses (shown above). For many collection items, these shelves will allow you to achieve compact storage manually.

Establishing and organizing takes good planning and meticulous hard work. What strategies have proven helpful at your institution? Do you have additional advice to share?


About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on July 13, 2012, in collections access, collections care, museums, storage and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Really?, Industrial shelving on casters? – You may want to check with OSHA on that first – mobile shelving is safer, and more affordable than you think. Go ahead, buy the wheels, the racks and then clear your floor – it’ll be cheaper to buy the real thing –

    • Thanks for the advice. We try to keep the tips coming to all the cultural heritage organizations we serve with very tiny budgets. The Museum of Anthropology at Wake Forest University was able to score some used mobile shelving. This solved many of their storage problems, allows terrific access and security for their academic community, and saved their institution an impressive amount of $$.

  1. Pingback: Summer 2012 Reflection « OrangeNCHistory

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