Storage Solutions-Don’t Call It Negative Space

Part 1 of 4

Whether you work at the MET or the local historical museum, storage spaces are a challenge for every collections manager.  We all struggle with maximizing space while storing objects securely and safely. To add to those complicated logistics the methods we need to use vary widely depending on what we are trying to store.  All over the world teams of professionals and volunteers spend tons of time working to stay organized in their efforts to steward the collections they are charged with, and it can be a daunting task.

Rarely do storage spaces start as a perfect blank slate.  We all wish that we had the resources to build a perfect new warehouse to outfit.  Don’t be fooled though…They have challenges too. The truth is most collections managers are forced to take whatever space is deemed unfit for humans to inhabit.  We are put in the basements, closets, and hidden areas of institutions and asked to use them to organize and house rare and valuable objects. Sometimes we even create casework to move out of the way so we can store things in unique voids in our buildings. Anything for a bit more room, right? The good news is there are storage cabinets and shelving units of all sizes and shapes to build into these spaces, but the bad news is you often end up with lots of unused space.  Make sure you use every inch!

Have dedicated locations: We all have that super unique object and if you find a specific place where it fits perfectly make a note in the record Also, add a note on the actual location so that something else is not stored in that special spot if the object is out being exhibited. This method especially works well if you do not have a rapidly growing collection, but if you do have a growing collection it still works for large objects and those that are very specific. Remember that even though something is on-loan it still take up storage space.

Find a carpenter you trust: If you can get all custom cabinets to fit your collection and space that is an amazing option, but in reality, we all have budget issues and have to find a way to make it work. Creating a combination of custom cabinets in conjunction with mass produced can help with maximizing space. Don’t be afraid to include a cabinet maker or carpenter into the planning process and have them create storage for the more unique spaces you are working with. Don’t leave any space unused.

Leave room to work: To many storage spaces are created with only storage in mind. The further you have to move objects and handle them, the more likely you are to damage them. Make sure and leave yourself a countertop or table space in your storage area that can fit at least 75-80% of the works stored there. Special accommodations can be made to work with the biggest works. It’s safer for the work and also better security wise. Also, create work tables and carts that are all on lockable wheels. This can help you manage the space you need and move it around depending on what you kind of objects you are working with.

Put it in print: Write up a process and methodology for why you as a collection manager has decided to store something in a certain space. Is it the size, the shape, the weight? If it is something truly specialized it is not a bad plan to keep a record of why you are making these decisions. I have often times had people come into a storage space and make comments about previous collections managers decisions. You know things about your space that may not be intuitive to someone walking in with no experience. The reality is that you will not be the manager of that space forever, and trying to remember every reason and quirk before you leave is fairly impractical. Keep notes of the progress and planning of a space, and build its history too. Who knows who will come after you and what challenges they might need to tackle.

Need help getting started with a plan or maximizing your storage space? Let Art Pro Net help! Our new Storage Space Planning Evaluation will help you identify equipment suggestions, workspace ideas, and overall policy planning. We can help you streamline your process and identify key focal points for your future planning. Email us today to learn more: