Setting up or reviewing your storage area

From Our Toolkit

Setting up a collection store can seem a like daunting task. Unless you are lucky enough to have a purpose-built store for your heritage collection, it will be a case of adapting an existing room or part of a room. Whether you are building from scratch or converting a space you already have you will need to consider the following points:

  • Space – Room for sufficient shelving (and a hanging rail if you have a uniform collection) with enough space to manoeuvre boxes and people in between. You will also need to factor in working space which at a minimum can accommodate both a computer station and a flat surface where you can get items out for inspection.
  • Shelving – Shelving without a painted or varnished finish is best.  Metal or plastic garage shelving is suitable if you are on a budget.  Avoid storing collection items on the floor where they could get kicked or damp in the event of a flood. Each shelving bay should be numbered as should each individual shelf so you can include this information in your location records of your inventory. For example, item A is stored in box B, on shelf C, in bay D of the Main Store.
  • Environment – An ideal storeroom will be able to be kept at a low and constant temperature, with a constant humidity and no natural light.  A room with no windows is best.  Also, a room without water pipes which might leak or cause a fluctuation in temperature or humidity.
  • Store plan – Once your store is all set up it is best practice to create a store plan. This is a simple diagram showing the location of all your shelves (including their numbers), storage furniture and work spaces. It can also include the location of power sockets, light sources, doorways including emergency exits, water pipes and any other relevant information.
  • Security – A locked room is best to prevent well intentioned people browsing or borrowing from the collection.
  • Environmental monitoring – Conservation companies such as Preservation Equipment or Conservation Resources sell low-cost monitors so you can spot check the temperature and humidity levels in your store.
  • Housekeeping – It is best to have a space which can be kept clean easily so avoid rooms with carpets which can harbour dust, dirt and pests. Make sure the room is cleaned regularly to prevent any build up of dust and dirt which attracts pests.
  • Condition checking (spot checks) – It is best practice to spot check items in your store. Using your inventory list you can choose a few items to check each month. This is a test of your inventory system to see if the items are where you think they are but also allows you to check on their condition and take action if they are deteriorating.

For museums

For archives

If you are fortunate enough to be building a store from scratch then you will need to refer to the relevant British Standard:

  • BS EN 16893:2018 Conservation of Cultural Heritage: Specifications for location, construction and modification of buildings or rooms intended for the storage or use of heritage collections.
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