Storage Solutions- You Can Never Have Too Many Labels

Signs, signs everywhere…not a bad concept when working in a storage space.  Creating a visual language and protocol is almost as important as the other parts of the organization in a storage space.  As with most storage spaces, dozens of people are involved in the care and access and making the process clear and simple should be a major priority for everyone on the team.

  • Tag it or bag it: Make sure everything has a tag tied to it if possible with not only the accession number but information that will help with organization and identification.  If you can’t add a tag, see if you can put the object in a bag and add labeling to it. If you are working with an art collection it is helpful to include the artists last name, and if you work in an ethnographic museum you can add the region that the work comes from.  Whatever bits of info will help identify the work quickly should be added, but remember to keep it simple
  • Label all sides:  One of my simplest tips for storage organization is to label at least 3- 4 sides of the container that you object is housed in.  Labeling many sides raises the chance that the object will not be put back into a location in a way where the collection number and information is not visible easily.  If it is a 2-D work, tag the same D-ring consistently so that when it is on the rack you know which side to look at for the label. Being able to find things quickly and easily makes working in a collection space run smoothly and allows for the need for your stakeholders to make creative decisions outside the protocols.
  • Large Print Locations: Don’t be shy about labeling the locations in your storage area. Label them clearly, and in a large size so that it is easy to see where objects are located and find them. If there is any possibility for confusion about what your indicating add arrows, for instance, if you are labeling a location that is simply floor space in a room add some labels that point in the direction of that section. Also, labeling multiple sides of large locations like floor space can help delineate it clearly. The main rule of thumb is it should be easy to understand what each location is called just by standing in front of it.
  • Avoid Getting Lost In Translation: Never assume that everyone in your storage area will remember the procedures. You might have interns, volunteers, or new employees that help manage the collection from time to time. If you have a sign out sheet for location, a special place to gather hardcopy location changes, or some other special protocol make sure that there is a printed copy of those instructions hand for reference by anyone who might need to be in the space. What seems intuitive to us collections managers, might be something that others don’t think about. Have the info handy, and make sure it is written in layman’s terms.

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