As museum collections grow over the years, storage space becomes a valuable commodity. With most museums displaying only 5% or less of their collection at any given time, it’s critical to have a safe and efficient way to store the thousands of artifacts that are not on display. Museums need the proper storage equipment to make the most efficient use of their increasingly limited storage space while ensuring the preservation of their priceless collections.

Compact storage systems for museums are the answer to this problem.

Compact storage systems maximize your storage capacity in your existing space to efficiently store museum collections. All types of shelving and cabinets can incorporate into a compact system, so you can be sure that each artifact in your collection—from fine art and textiles to fossils and specimens—is appropriately and safely stored. (Check out all of our specialized museum storage solutions here.)

Read on to learn:

  • What is compact storage?
  • Applications for compact museum storage systems
  • Benefits of compact storage systems for museums

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What is Compact Storage?

what are museum compact storage systemsCompact storage is a mobile shelving system in which shelves slide back and forth on floor tracks. By eliminating static aisle space, a compact storage system can double your storage capacity in your existing footprint. The system’s versatility makes it the perfect museum storage solution.

New or existing shelving units, racks, and cabinets mount on mobile carriages that slide on floor tracks to create a compact storage system (also known as a high-density, high-capacity, or mobile storage system). The mobile racks compact together when not used, and users access the desired shelving unit by opening a moveable access aisle.

Compact storage systems operate using either manual or electronic controls. The more cost-effective mechanical-assist option works using ergonomic three-spoke handles. Alternately, powered compact storage systems move automatically at the push of a button. Both options are easy to use and have optional security features available.

Compact storage systems accommodate a wide variety of shelving types, and they can be custom-designed to suit the requirements of your museum’s collection perfectly. Learn more about high-density mobile storage systems here.

Applications for Compact Museum Storage Systems

compact storage systems museumsCompact storage systems are highly versatile and designed to preserve and protect all types of artifacts and specimens. Here are a few possible configurations of compact systems for museum collection storage.

Specialized Museum Cabinets & Shelving

Any museum’s collection comprises various artifacts, and many items require specialized cabinets or shelving. Fortunately, a compact storage system can accommodate several types of museum shelving to safely and effectively store all these various artifacts in a convenient location. You can even incorporate your existing museum storage cabinets into a compact system.

Compact storage systems can house specialized cabinets and shelving for a wide range of items, including:

  • Records and documents
  • Textiles
  • Hanging garments
  • Books
  • Cassettes
  • Photographs and prints
  • Historic weapons
  • Geological samples
  • Biological, botanical, and entomological samples
  • Historical artifacts
  • Archival boxes

Art Storage Racks

benefits of compact museum storage systemsProper art storage is critical to prevent damage to valuable artworks. Several stand-alone art rack systems are available to safely and efficiently store your art collections. Still, if you’re opting for compact storage, it’s easy to integrate art storage racks into the high-capacity system.

Racks designed for hanging artwork can mount on mobile carriages for space-saving art storage. You may create a compact storage system specifically devoted to art storage, or you can integrate the mobile art racks into a comprehensive storage system along with cabinets and shelving for other artifacts.

Bulk Storage Racks

While museums store many small artifacts, such as insect specimens and geological samples, most have large and bulky artifacts to store as well. These items naturally take up a significant amount of space, but it’s still possible to store them efficiently.

Heavy-duty wide-span shelving and bulk racks integrate into compact storage systems to provide the most efficient storage for the largest and heaviest museum artifacts. These heavy-duty rack systems open with minimal effort using mechanical-assist handles or powered operation. Learn more about compact pallet rack systems here.

Cold Storage

mobile compact museum cabinetsMany items in museum collections require temperature-controlled storage, including photographs, film, and biological specimens. Cold storage space can be incredibly costly with the extra energy costs to consider, so it’s essential to make the most of your existing cold storage.

Fortunately, our compact storage systems can withstand cold temperatures. Install a high-capacity mobile shelving system in your walk-in freezer or cold room to maximize your cold storage capacity and eliminate the need to purchase more expensive cold storage space.

Benefits of Compact Storage Systems for Museums

Protects Collections from Damage

compact storage archival boxes records museumEffective museum storage systems must be able to preserve and protect collections against the top ten agents of deterioration. Compact storage systems have various customizable security features to ensure that each precious artifact is stored in optimal conditions for long-term preservation.

One concern is the risk of physical forces damaging specimens, such as the vibrations of an earthquake or an item falling from a shelf. Stabilizing accessories for compact shelving systems minimizes this risk. For museums in areas prone to seismic activity, it’s a good idea to equip your compact system with anti-tip rails. You can also install bars along shelves to prevent specimens in glass jars or other breakable artifacts from falling when the shelves are in motion.

Other common threats to museum collections include insects, rodents, and mold. You can guard against these infestations with the proper kind of shelving. Sealed cabinets keep pests out, and light-colored shelving makes it easy to detect the beginnings of an infestation. You can also reduce the risk of the mold with perforated shelving for improved ventilation.

Compact storage systems have the option of security features such as keyed access to specific cabinets and keyed or electronic locks for the entire system. These locks prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing stored materials and potentially damaging, stealing, or misplacing items. In addition, the mobile storage system has safety features that prevent the moving shelves from closing while an object or person is in an aisle, further minimizing the risk of damage to items in your collection.

Saves Space

compact bulk racks museum storageDramatic space savings is one of the most significant benefits of the compact storage system for museums. By cutting out wasted aisle space, a compact storage system can double your storage capacity in your existing footprint or reduce your storage space requirements by half. These savings are crucial for museums with rapidly growing collections and limited storage space. They enable you to store all your artifacts comfortably in one location and provide room for future growth.

Compact storage shelving provides the most efficient storage by allowing you to combine specialized storage solutions for every type of artifact, including drawers, trays, racks, and shelving of various sizes. Thus, you can safely store as many items as possible in as little space as possible. Compact shelving can use the entire vertical height of your facility so that not even overhead space goes to waste.

Improves Organization

Compact systems can improve museum storage organization by relieving the pressure of insufficient storage space and providing customizable storage for every item in your collection. With your entire collection located in the same area rather than split between different storage locations, it’s easier than ever for staff to find the desired artifact—and to store it in the proper place again.


Compact storage is an excellent investment for any museum, especially if you lower costs by utilizing your existing shelving. By doubling your storage capacity in your existing space, a compact storage system often eliminates the costly need for new construction. For example, one museum purchased a mobile storage cabinet system for a fifth of the estimated cost of building new storage space. They were able to store all of their records and artifacts in their existing space with a 25% expansion for future growth.

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Contact Us for Compact Museum Storage Systems

Southwest Solutions Group® provides design and installation services for compact storage systems for museums. We will also provide a free consultation to determine your exact needs and specifications before the design begins. To learn more or to speak with a specialist, call us at 1-800-803-1083 or send us a message today.


Museum Testimonials


“I want to thank your entire team for the outstanding work on our art storage project. The process from beginning to end was smooth and enjoyable, and the finished room looks terrific! Chester, Bryan, Chris, Chris, and the other members were extremely thorough and a pleasure to work with. They followed our house rules and took our direction very well. Thanks again for an outstanding project, and I look forward to working with Southwest Solutions in the future should the opportunity arise. ”

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
San antonio museum of art

“The new art racks are massive and beautiful! I cannot wait to hang art on the racks with those fancy hooks, wow! Thank you for helping me see the project through. The efforts of your team and installation really made the project go very smoothly and on time. We look forward to showing off the new and improved art storage room to our Director, Board Members, and Staff. Thanks a million, it has been a pleasure to work with you and your wonderful team on our paintings storage area.”

San Antonio Museum of Art

“I would like to thank you and your team at Southwest Solutions Group for working with the museum so diligently over the years. I also want to thank you personally for your patience, professionalism and great attitude as we’ve navigated the sometimes bumpy road to completing the Blanton Phase I and Phase II. Southwest Solutions Group will certainly be at the very top of my list for any future museum storage needs.”

Blanton Museum of Art

“Southwest Solutions Group is an amazing company made so much better by having Daryl at the helm of Museum and Library storage space saving designs in the NW. Daryl is not only an expert in high density shelving systems, but he consistently tunes into optimizing long term solutions to complex storage needs and pliable projects. Always reliable and knowledgeable, Daryl and his Spacesaver’s team have been indispensable partners in our world of cultural preservation.”

Seattle Art Museum

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