New Haven, Connecticut

Custom Museum Storage Solutions

Innovative design improves access to an Ivy League University Art Gallery's extensive collection and creates a unique learning environment.
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The Oldest University Art Museum in the United States

This institution had been assembling a diverse collection, both in terms of origin and medium, since 1832. But the collection was largely inaccessible to both the university academic community and the public. In order to incorporate the collection’s 200,000+ pieces into teaching and study programs, and to upgrade to modern storage standards, the university acquired its West Campus, a space formerly occupied by Bayer Pharmaceuticals, and created the Margaret and Angus Wurtele Study Center.

In collaboration with other top quality vendors, Spacesaver was able to create a sleek, functional, open learning environment in the 49,000 square foot space that, as the Principal Architect Jeff Weatherston of WeatherstonBruer Associates said, “Answers the question of what kinds of facilities are possible.”

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Along with conservation and preservation, one of the project’s main goals was to maximize visibility while also improving access to all objects stored at the Center.

Designing a New Learning Environment

Changing the 49,000-square-foot open space into a learning environment that encompassed all of the Wurtele Study Center’s needs was a massive, multi-part challenge. Prototype cabinets developed for the bidding process were tested for durability, functionality, and ability to maintain a microclimate environment, which required a series of CO2 leak-down tests to determine the integrity of door seals and fittings. Spacesaver Museum Cabinets was confirmed as the company of choice due to its high quality and attention to detail during each phase of the process.

In order to maximize vertical storage space, Spacesaver designed both stackable and full-height cabinets that totaled the exact 111” available. These cabinets use a combination of a custom, hybridized system of removable and permanent drawers, along with glass-front display units that were engineered to provide a controlled microclimate environment to protect the pieces inside.

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custom museum storage compactors

“We made 600 part drawings just for this project,” explained Ben Adamitus, a Spacesaver design engineer who worked for Viking at the time. Museum cabinets on compact mobile carriages provide flexibility and portability for the Wurtele Study Center’s ongoing educational needs.

Throughout the project, Spacesaver’s local distributor and its project management team worked in partnership with the project architect and other vendors to achieve successful completion. “The collaboration between vendors was exceptional,” said Carol DeNatale, Deputy Director of Operations for the Ivy League University Art Gallery.

Spacesaver distinguished themselves by actively resolving issues and adjusting to scheduling requirements as the groups not only had to maintain their own timelines, but also work with the timing of the overall building renovation.

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Multiple vendors coordinated to keep the project on schedule.

Furthering an Educational Mission

Everyone involved in outfitting the Wurtele Study Center agrees that the project has been a huge success.

Through functional, durable storage systems, the University Art Gallery is well on its way to achieving the accessibility needed to carry out its educational mission. Students, researchers, and the public can enjoy a more immersive study experience as these storage systems become home to many of the over 200,000 pieces of artwork being moved to the University’s West Campus.