Coventry Transport Museum's main off-site store

Cross calls for new debate on stored collections

Geraldine Kendall, 26.01.2011
MA collections coordinator comments on BBC report showing extent of storage costs for nationals

Sally Cross, the MA’s collections coordinator, has called for a new debate on how museums could use stored collections and storage space more creatively. Cross spoke out after a BBC report last week criticised the amount spent by national museums on storage.

The report found that some nationals were spending over £500,000 per year hiring storage space. The British Museum was shown to have spent £86,280 renting external storage space in 2010, while the Tate hired space worth £520,547. Both museums also devote extensive space within their properties to storage.

The British Museum defended the amount it spent on storage, saying: “A large proportion of the collection cannot be on display permanently for conservation reasons... It is vital that this collection is stored and studied but it is not necessary for the entire collection to be displayed.”

MA collections coordinator Sally Cross, who contributed to the report, said afterwards the BBC research had raised questions about how stored collections could be used more proactively and whether storage resources would be affected by upcoming budget cuts.

Cross said: "Obviously in a two-minute news piece the BBC couldn’t cover all the issues on stored collections. We all know that museums need storage space – the question I’d like to ask museums is how they can make best use of their collections in store and whether their storage areas are at risk from funding cuts."

Cross said she would like to hear new suggestions on how museums could be more creative in using their stored objects and storage space in future.

Recent applicants to the MA’s Effective Collections grant scheme have embarked on community projects, sharing networks and ambitious disposal schemes to get more use out of their collections.

To watch the BBC London News report, click here

To find out more about Effective Collections, click here


How does your museum compare?
Data compiled by the BBC

British Museum

2010 hire costs for storage space: £86,280
Storage space on museum property: 21,600m sq
Percentage of collection in storage: 99%

Tate

2010 hire costs for storage space: £520,547
Storage space on museum property: 14,467m sq
Percentage of collection in storage: 15%

National Maritime Museum

2010 hire costs for storage space: £142,361
Storage space on museum property: 7,775m sq
Percentage of collection in storage: 93%

Science Museum*

2010 hire costs for storage space: £0
Storage space on museum property: 215,518m sq
Percentage of collection in storage: 95%

Natural History Museum

2010 hire costs for storage space: £45,928
Storage space on museum property: 41,589m sq
Percentage of collection in storage: 95%

National Museums Scotland

2010 hire costs for storage space: £45,133
Storage space on museum property: 36,200m sq
Percentage of collection in storage: 90%

National Gallery

2010 hire costs for storage space: £0
Storage space on museum property: 1,944m sq
Percentage of collection in storage: 20%

Imperial War Museum

2010 hire costs for storage space: £3,352
Storage space on museum property: 10,000m sq
Percentage of collection in storage: 95%

The Wallace Collection

2010 hire costs for storage space: £0
Storage space on museum property: n/a
Percentage of collection in storage: The Wallace Collection is obliged to display the entirety of its collection at all times

V&A

2010 hire costs for storage: £850,598
Storage space on museum property: 14,409m sq
Percentage of collection in storage: 81%

*excluding the National Railway Museum and the National Media Museum

Have you got an inspired suggestion on how to get the most out of objects in storage? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.


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