Museum & Archive Shelving Storage

Like any collection care work, each object, work of art, book, etc requires its own storage treatment or strategy. There is no, one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to museum and archive storage but there are many core issues to bear in mind.


Mobile Shelving - Save space, but not at the cost of your collection

mobile shelving

Mobile shelving is becoming increasingly popular, and for the most part is an excellent solution for museum or archive storage. Mobile shelving allows whole rows of shelves to be moved, meaning space for only one access aisle is required, therefore saving space. Operated by mechanical handles the shelving units roll on tracks, or trackless systems are also available for ease of cleaning.

Installing mobile shelving can optimise storage floor space, it’s a benefit that cannot be ignored when growing collections are to be housed in existing storage areas. Our simple diagram here shows a 40% space saving on the same volume of mobile storage vs static shelving. This efficiency will only increase with the size of the system.

It is however important that the system is suitable for the items stored within. By its nature, mobile storage is regularly moved to provide access, and this movement could cause damage tomobile shelving diagram objects. Particularly sensitive objects such as glass negatives should never be stored on a mobile system for this reason. There are also other considerations such as; airflow (not trapping air and encouraging condensation, and therefore mould), disaster preparedness (how will items be extracted in event of an emergency), structural concerns (a shelf full of books is incredibly heavy).

PEL can offer a number of solutions for mobile shelving with full site survey and consultation, Contact us here.


Static Shelving, make sure there are no shocks

Static racking and shelving is a more financially economic solution for museum and archive storage than mobile storage, and is most suitable for objects that are sensitive to movement.

Due to its fixed position, issues around airflow and disaster preparedness are easier to mobile shelvingaddress and organise. Of course, access is generally easier in static shelving than that of mobile shelving systems, but the storage area will need to be significantly larger as shown above.

One of the risks associated with static shelving is its construction. There are a number of common construction materials that present a risk to objects – Do you know whether yours is safe?

  • Baked enamel can off-gas (VOCs such as Formaldehyde) and as a result is not recommended
  • Wood is not considered safe as it can be acidic and lead to acid migration into the stored object. If wood is used it should be lined with an inert barrier material such as polyester or Marvelseal. Using a barrier material will also protect from any coatings such as oils that may have been applied.
  • Wood composites such as chipboard can also off-gas and should be sealed if used

Powder coated shelving, such as our steel shelving, is generally accepted as being safe as it doesn’t off-gas. If you are not sure of the materials your shelving is constructed from, or its weight capacity, testing should take place to ensure that they are fit for purpose.

Hanging rails for garments and storage drawers can be integrated into shelving. These are bespoke solutions, please contact us for more information.


Framed art storage and racks

mobile shelving

With infinite variation in size, but minimal depth, framed art, paintings, prints and textiles require and allow a different treatment. Framed art when not being displayed needs to be stored safely, and more often than not, remain viewable.

Suspended rack storage systems provide the ideal solution for framed paintings or rolled textiles. Like mobile shelving, floor area is used efficiently with the system hung from the ceiling or from a self-supporting structure.

Smooth running tracks, energy absorbing buffers and self-braking systems all serve to ensure the safety of artwork when racks are moved.


Standards, as standard

Something you may not have noticed while looking for a storage solution is SEMA approval. This is the Storage Equipment Manufacturers Association stamp of approval for systems supplied by a particular company. Our warehouse shelving solutions are SEMA approved so you can be assured that the design is of the highest standards.

Of course, it is of the utmost importance to maintain stable archival environmental conditions. The British Standard PD5454:2012 has recently been replaced by BS EN 16893:2018 and in conjunction with BS 4971:2017 seeks to formalise criteria for archival storage conditions. BS EN 16893:2018 referring more specifically to the built storage environment and BS 4971:2017 for recommendations on conservation and protection. These new British Standards seek to address the needs of current museums and archives where there are an ever-increasing number of challenges. PEL can work with you to build a storage environment that meets your needs in-line with current standards, just give us a call and we can arrange a site visit and professional consultation. Contact us here.


Plan chest cabinets - Read more about our range of plan chest cabinets and what you should be looking out for here.

For safes and secure storage click here


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