Increase participation and protect collections through visual storage – American Alliance of Museums

Graphic with Spacesaver logo and title "Protect groups with visual storage"

This post is an advertisement written by a company serving the museum industry. The opinions, opinions, and positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of AAM or its employees.


As museum professionals search for new and meaningful ways to engage visitors, the concept of visual storage has emerged as a practical way to promote better access while also protecting collections. Because exhibition space is limited, and because many museums keep most of their holdings in storage, visual storage allows visitors, donors, and board members to gain a better understanding of the breadth and depth of the collection.

In order to achieve long-term success, visual storage projects must balance accessibility and openness with the need to maintain optimal preservation environments and safe storage for collections. Over the years, we have developed a design process that helps guide stakeholders’ thinking when they consider renovations or new construction that includes visual storage. Here’s how a variety of museums have helped us ensure that their collections are easily accessible today, while also preserving them for future generations.

How to Design Visual Storage for Museum Collections

  1. Consider the needs of your group
    • Make an inventory of the number, size, and weight of items within your collection.
    • Describe the preservation requirements for several items in your collection. Make a special note of rare or delicate items that require extra special attention.
  1. Consider physical space
    • How many square meters are available?
    • Within that area, what obstructions are present, such as structural columns or ductwork?
    • How much vertical space is available?
    • How do people currently operate in space? How do people prefer working in space in the future?
  1. Consider the vision
    • With reference to your inventory, select the candidate items for visible storage.
    • Think of the different ways in which these items can be displayed in visual storage while maintaining an optimal preservation environment and ensuring security.
    • Get design inspiration from other museum visual storage projects. Scroll down to see our favourites.

Here are 5 ways organizations have incorporated Spacesavers visual storage solutions into their collection areas

University Art Study Center

This university has been collecting a diverse art collection since the early 19th century, but the collection was not accessible to the campus community and the general public. In order to upgrade to modern storage standards and incorporate thousands of items into its teaching and study programs, the university has established an art study center featuring visual storage. The architect specified locking preservation cabinets with glass doors to protect stored objects while also allowing students and visitors to view the collections.

Natural History Museum

The construction of a new museum for staff at this institution provided the opportunity to give visitors a glimpse into the research conducted by the visiting scholars and scholars in the collection’s storage areas. They have created an innovative solution that integrates the collections area with the public display space. The area provides researchers with convenient access to a small, climate-controlled portion of the storage area on one side of the glass partitions, and specially designed Spacesaver carts provide a platform for an exhibition that teaches the public the importance of specimen collection and preservation.

Cultural Museum

The staff at this museum worked with a local Spacesaver consultant to design an innovative way to protect the institution’s pottery collection while also enhancing visibility. Collections are stored on Spacesaver compressors which are equipped with special end plates that allow display of display pieces from the gallery. In addition to making more of the collection visible to the public, this arrangement allowed staff to better control the temperature and humidity in the collection’s storage area, and also provides additional security and insulation for culturally sensitive items. A visual storage solution allows even casual museum visitors to gain a better appreciation of the collection’s significance.

Museum of Art and Science

A generous benefactor has challenged this museum to design and build a new wing dedicated to visual storage. With the goal of displaying as much of their collections as possible, museum staff and architects worked with a local Spacesaver consultant to make smart use of the space. The design concept called for art shelves (also called art screens), black shelves, and creative lighting to highlight the items in the collection. Plexiglass maintains safety and increases group visibility.

Contemporary Art Museum

The curating staff at this Museum of Contemporary Art wanted a visual storage solution to complement the exhibitions with drawings, references, and other two-dimensional works that would complement the art in a more prominent display. After working with a local Spacesaver consultant, the team decided that flat-glass filing cabinets would provide the perfect solution. Cabinets are locked to secure contents and keep artwork organized, while UV-coated glass surfaces protect artwork and allow visitors to view what’s stored inside.

Museum storage specialists

At Spacesaver, we’re experts at creative solutions to museum collection storage challenges. Your local Spacesaver consultant can visit your facility, gain a comprehensive understanding of your group’s needs, and work with our engineering and project management teams to design, manufacture and install your new storage systems.

Contact a Spacesaver storage expert to find out more!

About Spacesaver

Save groups. Enhanced access. Spacesaver is committed to helping your organization fulfill its responsibility to protect and maintain collections. For fifty years, we have brought an innovative approach to improving space in museums, archives, libraries, and other institutions. By maximizing space throughout the collection areas and providing robust and configurable collections equipment, our solutions have earned the respect of museum staff and have stood the test of time. Our local consultants, backed by our in-house engineering and manufacturing professionals, can partner with your team – including architects, consultants and contractors – to protect the past and prepare for the future.

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