Storage has often been housed off-site in remote locations, but moves to increase audience access recently has seen institutions change their ways of thinking.
An emerging trend sees city centres as a favourite location. For instance, National Galleries of Scotland’s Art Works facility will be built in the middle of Edinburgh’s Granton Waterfront development, a key cultural regeneration site.
In the Netherlands, the Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam has already made a spectacle of its “depot” – a mirrored building that stands in the middle of Museumpark and claims to be the world’s first publicly accessible art storage facility.
Director Ina Klassen says: “We could have built a black box in the suburbs with a high fence. It would have been very safe, but very boring too.”
Environmental control is paramount for museum storage, but new sustainable approaches include using less energy to achieve these goals . For example, the Tank Museum in Dorset was recently awarded £100,000by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and the Wolfson Foundation, to upgrade its environmental controls from “power hungry heating and ventilation” to a more passive energy-efficient system.
In 2019, the Imperial War Museum’s Paper Store achieved Passivhaus certification, which requires rigorous standards in insulation and air tightness.
Online collection catalogues are an important resource for the public, but museums can do a lot more with that information.
The Science Museum has developed a Random Object Generator and themed collection subjects with suggested key words.
“Databases are great for search terms, but we need to help people find objects they didn’t know they were looking for,” says Jessica Bradford, the museum’s head of collections and principal curator.
Video content is also great for sharing stored collections and expertise across the world, as highlighted by the Wallace Collection’s YouTube channel, which features walkthroughs, collection highlights and behind-the-scenes footage.
The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge is documenting its collections move to a new Centre for Material Culture through a lighthearted but informative blog and on Instagram using the hashtag #MaaStoresMove.
While stored objects are traditionally hidden away from public view, a push towards highly visible alternatives is being championed by the likes of The Storehouse at V&A East.
The building will feature “hacked ends” in the form of cut-away slices that reveal swathes of ever-changing racks, which visitors can view from the main hall.
The Depot Boijmans already features windows into climate-controlled stores and conservation studios, as well as its inbuilt Maze, a 3D labyrinth in the atrium with floating cases in which objects are displayed.