Two museums merge
to tell a more complete
story of the Civil War.
Case Study - American Civil War Museum | Richmond, VA
Two Museums Become One
The new museum’s storage systems work together to save space, preserve collections, and promote access.
The new American Civil War Museum was created through the merger of two very different museums: the Museum of the Confederacy, which held the world’s largest collection of confederate artifacts, and the American Civil War Center, which was founded with the goal of explaining the war and its effects through the perspectives of enslaved and free African Americans, immigrants, and women.
The merger presented the opportunity to combine the museums’ collections and explain the Civil War more fully. The new facility would also have more exhibition space and a new collections storage area.
Merging the collections presented challenges, but it also
offered staff the opportunity to re-think storage strategies.
TIP: A new collections area often results in new housings for stored artifacts.
When assessing your collections to determine storage requirements, don’t simply measure the space that the objects take up now. Think about how much space they’ll occupy when they’re rehoused to modern standards.
An Opportunity to
Improve Collections Storage
Designing a new collections storage area is always a
challenge, and this project was even more complex than
usual. Space was limited and staff needed to find a way
to store the combined collections in a way that would
preserve the artifacts, optimize the available space, and
provide room to grow in the future.
The process started with a thorough inventory of all the
items in the combined collections. When staff measured
objects to determine storage requirements, they noticed
that many objects needed to be rehoused. They planned
ahead, noting not only the objects’ actual dimensions
but also the amount of space they would take up after
they had been rehoused in accordance with modern
Staff soon realized that they would need help to figure
out how to fit everything into the space allotted for
collections storage in the new facility. They called on
the local Spacesaver consultant to gain a better under-
standing of their options, and over the next few years he
consulted with them and with the project’s architects to
ensure that the new collections area would not only
provide the best preservation environment for the
collections, but that the space would also be safe,
efficient, and accessible for staff and visiting researchers.
The swords and scabbards in the museum’s collection vary in size and shape, and staff wanted to store them compactly while still keeping them organized. Also, because they’re arranged alphabetically by the original owner’s last name, staff needed a way to shift swords and scabbards to accommodate new acquisitions in the future.
The Spacesaver solution consists of foam mounts and steel supports mounted inside shelving unit frames. The steel supports can be moved along steel rails and the foam supports can slide from left to right. The local Spacesaver consultant sourced the foam mounts and had them custom cut to provide secure storage.
Swords and Scabbards
Foam mounts and steel supports can be moved to accommodate swords and scabbards of different shapes and sizes.
Flags and Other Textiles
The museum’s flag collection, which is the world’s largest single collection of Confederate and Union flags and flag fragments, also needed special attention. By installing divider rods between shelves, Spacesaver created an efficient way to compactly store flags that were mounted and framed.
They’re stored on edge to save space and the dividers keep them in place. Some flags and other textiles need to be rolled onto tubes for storage Cantilever racking fitted with adjustable arms provides an adjustable solution that optimizes space on the racks.
The saddles in the museum’s collection posed another storage challenge: they’re large, heavy, awkward to handle, and vulnerable to damage and decay.
To protect the saddles and straps while also optimizing space in the climate-controlled collections area, Spacesaver’s engineers designed sturdy steel mounts for the saddles, as well as adjustable steel brackets to support the stirrups. The stirrup brackets can be moved up and down on 1-inch increments and then locked into place, thereby relieving pressure on the stirrup straps. The brackets can also be moved from front to back for perfect positioning along the saddle. The mounts and brackets are compatible with Spacesaver’s cantilever racking system, which offers even more flexibility in arranging the saddles.
Museum staff had initially thought they would need museum cabinets to house thousands of musical instruments, medals, and other small objects, and they were concerned that they didn’t have the budget to purchase the large quantity of cabinets that would be required.
They were relieved to discover that Spacesaver’s museum trays could be mounted on 4-Post shelving to store objects that did not need the sealed interior environment or the strength that a welded museum cabinet would provide.
TIP: Spacesaver's Nantucket museum drawers and trays can be installed in 4-Post shelving frames to store smaller objects that don’t need a sealed cabinet.
This solution compactly stores historic saddles while also providing appropriate support for each saddle and its components.
To make the most of the collections area’s limited space,
high-density storage systems were designed specifically
for the area’s unique requirements. These systems
eliminate wasted space by mounting shelving and
cabinets on carriages that move along rails installed in
the floor. They’re robust enough to handle the weight
of furniture and other large objects, and they’re
equipped with safety features to ensure the
safety of staff and visitors.
These systems were crucial in accommodating the
combined collections and providing room to grow
in the future.
A modern weapons rack provides compact storage for the
museum’s historic long guns. Spacesaver’s Weapon Rack III was installed in 4-Post shelving, which was in turn mounted on a high-density storage system, to save space and keep rifles and other long guns organized.
Enduring Solutions for Museums of all Sizes
At Spacesaver, we understand that planning for new construction or renovation can be a daunting experience. Although every project has its challenges, we bring the expertise you need to create a collections storage system that will protect your collections now and into the future. Our Wisconsin-based teams of in-house engineers, project managers, and manufacturing craftspeople are ready to work with your local Spacesaver consultant to design, build, and install effective storage solutions that will stand the test of time.
As you think about designing a new or renovated collections area, contact us to arrange a free consultation. You’ll learn about your options and gain insight and inspiration from others who have undertaken similar projects.