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Prevent Overcrowding & Dissociation

Risk Management in Museums

February 1st, 2021 - 2 min read

Overcrowded collections areas are a common challenge in museums, archives, and special collections areas. We’ve seen it hundreds of times: collections inevitably grow over time, and despite everyone’s best efforts, standards are relaxed “just this once” until objects are stored on the floor, crowded into cabinets, and overflow into office space. This can lead to damage or dissociation: with no designated “home,” objects can be separated from their documentation or misplaced entirely, resulting in uncertainty about the object’s provenance or even loss of the object itself.

Manage the Risk of Damage or Loss

We specialize in helping museums and other institutions manage risk related to overcrowding. Here’s how to create a collections uncrowding plan:

1. Get a free space assessment

Contact your local Spacesaver consultant, who will come over to obtain accurate measurements of your existing equipment as well as a variety of structural features, including ceiling heights, sprinkler placement, columns, ductwork, and more. This visit is free, with no strings attached.

2. Conduct a collections assessment

Assess current storage volumes for various collections, along with projected growth rates. Make special note of any particularly large, heavy, or odd-sized objects or objects that need extra-special care. A spreadsheet is invaluable for keeping this information all in one place, and a column can be added for collections equipment.

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3. Evaluate existing equipment

If your existing equipment is in good condition, you might be able to incorporate it into new systems. For example, we designed cabinets and compactor systems that would allow the entomology department at the Field Museum to repurpose many of their existing specimen drawers while also creating more space for specimens.

museum risk management entomology cabinet integrate collection

4. Create sketches and drawings

After we know more about your space and your collections, we can develop detailed plans for uncrowding your collections care area. Clients often use our drawings to help secure funding, because funders can instantly see how uncrowding will help manage the risk of loss or dissociation.

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5. Consider configurability

If new storage equipment is needed, be sure to consider configurability as you evaluate your options. Configurable equipment refers to cabinets, textile racks, shelving, and even compactor systems that can be changed over time to make room for new acquisitions or items on loan while also improving organization, efficiency, and access for staff and researchers.

Configurability in Action: Faculty and staff at the University of Rochester’s art gallery had been using a textile roll racking system that was so difficult to adjust that they had to call in the facilities and maintenance department when they wanted to remove or add rolls to it. We helped them design and install a system that they can reconfigure without special tools, allowing them to save time and protect collections while also making room for new acquisitions. That means better collections care and better alignment with the institution’s mission.

Explore Versatility

Collections are always changing, but we can help make sure objects always have a home. View interchangeable accessories, mounting options, door and handle options, and more for our 920 Series: Preservation Cabinet.

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