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Museum Archive Shelving and Storage Tips

Museum archive shelving and storage are important parts of managing a collection. Designing the storage solutions that will make the best use of the space while matching the needs of the collection is a complicated task that might call for a team of cooperating experts, including everyone from curators to engineers and architects. There are a lot of factors to consider before you get started.

The Collection

Archival collections contain materials that are valuable both for their cost and their historical, cultural, or academic significance. These materials are also often extremely delicate. To preserve fragile documents, shelving and storage units need to be chemically stable so that the documents don’t deteriorate. They also need to be well-fitted to maintain control of factors like airflow and humidity around each document. With custom designs from a reputable expert, you can make sure that your storage solutions protect the collections they contain. 

The Layout

Museum staff need to keep items efficiently organized so that it remains accessible to curators and researchers. Accessibility is an important factor for ease of use, but well-designed shelving and storage access serve another important purpose, too. 

Overcrowded or poorly designed storage spaces create narrow access paths as well as excessive clutter. When the spaces become cramped, there is a greater chance of people, book bags, carts, and other objects colliding with fragile documents. When planning for museum archive storage, it’s important to consider the total amount of space available, both vertically and as floor space. You also want to plan around any obstructions, like columns or partial walls.

High density mobile storage can help with spaces of all shapes and sizes. Rolling archive shelves require fewer access aisles, saving space overall. With the added mobility and custom design of these features, it’s also possible to easily modify aisle width to avoid overcrowding and protect the collection.

The Users

The users of museum archive collections are as varied as the collections themselves. From museum staff to professional researchers who spend hours among the shelves, each person has their own unique purpose for visiting the archive. When designing storage solutions, consider how people move in the space. What are they looking for? What visual does the design need to create for them? 

The storage of the collection can help users achieve their goals while organizing and protecting the items themselves. Visible storage is one way to make the entire collection available for users to access easily. It also opens up the design of the space so that curators can use proximity and other kinds of associations to tell the story of the collection.

The Storage Solutions

Storage options for museum archive collections are not one-size-fits-all. The storage solution should be custom designed to match both the collection and the environment, and to be functional as well as beautiful. Collections can also grow and change, creating new needs. It is important that the storage options can also adapt in response.

Museum cabinets are one option that can be used for conservation or display. These allow for easy control of environmental factors that contribute to preservation and are also great tools for showcasing a collection. Flat files might be another choice for storing papers, posters, paintings, maps, and documents. Flat files have less natural visibility, but also protect materials well and are great space-savers.

Whatever the unique needs of your collection (including compact shelving), Systems & Space, Inc. can help. Contact us today for a custom design.


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