Exploring the New Museum Study Gallery Storage

Written by: Carrie Blough, DAR Museum Associate Registrar/Assistant Curator
February 21, 2019

The exciting, visible part of the DAR Museum's new Study Gallery and Main Exhibit Gallery has been revealed, but there is another aspect to the newly remodeled museum space that excites the museum staff and keeps us busy: the hidden and not-so-hidden storage spaces. When we were planning the new galleries, we were very conscious of the need for storage. Museums are always on the lookout for secure and environmentally safe spaces to store our ever-expanding collection of objects. In the previous museum gallery 66 cupboards below the display cabinets held around 2600 objects that would need a new permanent home.  

Our storage needs were met in the form of the new cabinets with drawers that would furnish the new Study Gallery. The top 4 drawers would be viewable by our visitors and the bottom 2 would remain locked, providing the urgently needed storage space.  We determined that they would be too difficult for visitors to see into, but perfect to store objects. We installed eight cabinets, and with the bottom two drawers designated for storage, that gave us a total of 16 drawers. We maximized the space in each drawer by using standard storage trays, along with one custom-made tray by the Museum Preparator. He further customized these trays by creating spaces for individual objects to be stored safely. In some of the drawers that held very small objects such as salts and cup plates, we were able to stack the trays. In total, the trays in the 16 drawers hold 1677 glass, ceramic and silver objects. They are easy to view and access by curators who are examining the collection. In fact, this new storage system makes accessing the collection much easier than the old cupboards in the old gallery, where curators and collections staff had to sit on the floor and shine a flashlight into the cupboards to find objects.

These drawers are incredibly useful and efficient, but they would not be enough to store the collections that were displaced during the remodel. That’s when we decided upon more furniture that would truly embrace the “open storage” concept in the Study Gallery. We chose 4 cabinets that have glass doors to hold another large portion of the collection. Visitors can easily see what’s inside, and collections staff can safely and easily store large, tall, and awkwardly sized objects. They are easy for curators to access, and fun for visitors to view. These cabinets hold 402 objects. It’s a lot less than the drawers, but these objects take up a lot of space.

The cabinets and drawers provided space for 2079 objects. We found space for the remaining 500 objects in other collection storage rooms, and in the visible drawers and cabinets in the Study Gallery. All of the collections that were stored in the old gallery are now securely stored in environmentally safe areas that are accessible and easy to manage.

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