Combining Collections

Richmond, Virginia

Two museums merge to tell a more complete story of the Civil War. The merger also presented the chance to re-think the new museum’s storage design strategies.

Two Museums Become One

The new American Civil War Museum was created through the merger of two very different museums: the Museum of the Confederacy, which held the world’s largest collection of confederate artifacts, and the American Civil War Center, which was founded with the goal of explaining the war and its effects through the perspectives of enslaved and free African Americans, immigrants, and women.

The merger presented the opportunity to combine the museums’ collections and explain the Civil War more fully. The new facility would have more exhibition space and a new collections storage area.

Merging the collections presented challenges, but it also offered staff the opportunity to re-think their museum storage design strategies.

large frame museum shelving dividers

museum collection civil war high-density mobile storage

An Opportunity to Improve Museum Storage Design

Designing a new museum collections storage area is always a challenge, and this project was even more complex than usual. Space was limited and staff needed to find a way to store the combined collections in a way that would preserve the artifacts, optimize the available space, and provide room to grow in the future.

They called on the local Spacesaver consultant to gain a better understanding of their collections storage options. Over the next few years he consulted with them and with the project’s architects to ensure that the new collections area would not only provide the best preservation environment for the collections, but that the space would also be safe, efficient, and accessible for staff and visiting researchers.

TIP: Conducting inventory for a new collections area often reveals the need for new artifact housings. When assessing your collections to determine storage requirements, don’t simply measure the space that the objects take up now. Think about how much space they’ll occupy when they’re rehoused to modern standards.

Thoughtful museum storage design resulted in creative solutions throughout the collections area.

Storing Swords and Scabbards

The swords and scabbards in the museum’s collection vary in size and shape, and staff wanted to store them compactly while still keeping them organized.

Foam mounts and steel supports can be moved to accommodate artifacts of different shapes and sizes.

sword scabbard compact storage civil war museum

High-Density “Compactor” Systems

To make the most of the collections area’s limited space, high-density Spacesaver “compactor” systems were designed specifically for the museum’s unique requirements. These compact shelving systems eliminate wasted space by mounting shelving and cabinets on carriages that move along rails installed in the floor. The systems are robust enough to handle the weight of furniture and other large objects, and they’re equipped with safety features to ensure the safety of staff and visitors.

Spacesaver systems were essential in creating enough space to accommodate the combined collections — and they provide room to grow in the future.

Storing Flags and Other Textiles

The museum’s flag collection, which is the world’s largest single collection of Confederate and Union flags and flag fragments, also needed special attention. Spacesaver created an efficient way to compactly store mounted and framed flags.

Some flags and other textiles need to be rolled onto tubes for storage. Cantilever racking fitted with adjustable arms provides an adjustable solution that optimizes space on the racks.

rolled textile civil war museum storage

sadel stirrups collection storage

Storing Saddles

The historic saddles in the museum’s collection posed another storage challenge: they’re large, heavy, awkward to handle, and vulnerable to damage and decay.

To protect the saddles and stirrup straps while also optimizing space in the climate-controlled museum collections area, Spacesaver’s engineers designed sturdy steel mounts to store the saddles, as well as adjustable steel brackets to support the stirrups.

Storing Small Museum Objects

Museum staff had initially thought they would need museum cabinets to house thousands of musical instruments, medals, and other small objects, and they were concerned that they didn’t have the budget to purchase the large quantity of cabinets that would be required.

They were relieved to discover that Spacesaver’s museum trays could be mounted on 4-Post shelving to store objects that did not need the sealed interior environment or the strength that a welded museum cabinet would provide.

TIP: Museum trays can be mounted on shelving to store smaller objects that don’t need to be stored in a sealed cabinet.

Storing Historic Weapons

A modern weapons rack provides compact storage for the museum’s historic long guns. Spacesaver’s Weapon Rack III was installed in 4-Post shelving, which was in turn mounted on a high-density storage system. The solutions saves space and keep rifles and other long guns safe and organized.

The new museum’s storage area was designed with systems that work together to save space, preserve collections, and promote access.

historic weapon high-density mobile storage

Enduring Solutions for Museums of All Sizes

As you think about designing a new or renovated museum collections storage area, contact us to arrange a free consultation. You’ll learn about your options and gain insight and inspiration from others who have undertaken similar projects in museum storage design.

civil war museum collection storage