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.
We specialize in helping museums and other institutions manage risk related to overcrowding. Here’s how to create a collections uncrowding plan:
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.
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.
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.
Creating an optimal environment for preservation and access.
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.
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.
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 Viking Preservation Cabinet 920 Series.
Imagine having someone on call who could help uncrowd your collections, optimize your space, and create an environment that promotes preservation and access. You do actually have someone to help out: your local Spacesaver consultant offers a wealth of expertise in dealing with collections storage issues.