How to Choose the Best Museum Cabinets for Collections Storage

Museum cabinets are a big investment, and they need to stand the test of time. It’s difficult to predict how collections will grow and change in the future, so it’s important to choose cabinets that have flexibility built in from the start.

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Here are the top 5 considerations for choosing the best museum cabinets:

  1. Interior Environment - Look for cabinets that create and maintain the ideal preservation environment.
  2. Modularity - Look for a system that can grow over time.
  3. Mobility - Consider the options for compatibility with compactors (high-density storage systems), forklift bases, and caster bases.
  4. Configurability / Accessories - Look for interchangeable accessories and reconfigurable interiors.
  5. Visibility - Depending on the needs of your collection, you might want to choose doors that offer visibility into cabinets.

1. Interior Environment

To ensure that you purchase cabinets that create and maintain the ideal preservation environment for your collections, look for cabinets with these features:

1. Vents

Facilitate proper air exchange rates with vents that can be adjusted from outside the cabinets.

2. Locks with 3-point Latches

Gain peace of mind knowing that collections are secure.

3. Channel with Closed-Cell Gasket

Ensure a tight seal by choosing cabinets that have a closed-cell gasket inside a steel channel.<

static museum cabinets

4. Watershield Cap

Protect collections from water damage in case of sprinkler deployment.

5. Non-Off-Gassing Paint Finish

Minimize the risk of contamination with non-off-gassing powder-coat paint.

2. Modularity

If future flexibility is important, choose modular units that can be stacked, ganged, stationary, or mounted on high-density carriages or caster bases. If your institution might need to add cabinets in the future, or if you might need to transfer trays and other accessories from one cabinet to another someday, you’ll want to select cabinets and accessories in compatible sizes.

Viking by Spacesaver cabinets feature integrated connection points that allow them to be stacked, ganged, stationary, or mounted on high-density carriages or caster bases.

half height museum cabinet
Counter-height cabinets can double as a work surface, and their modular design allows them to be safely and securely stacked if more cabinets are purchased in the future.

full height museum cabinet
Full-height cabinets are more cost effective than counter-height cabinets, with a lower price per cubic foot of storage.

3. Mobility

Although most people think of cabinets as being stationary, they actually rarely stay in the same exact place over the entire course of their useful life. They might stay in one room for a decade or two, then be moved to a new room or be mounted on a “carriage” that allows them to move along rails to save space in collections storage areas. More and more museum staff are wanting at least a few cabinets that have full mobility, so they choose half-height cabinets on caster bases.

static museum cabinets


mobile caster museum cabinets


museum compact cabinet


flat museum cabinet handel

TIP: If cabinets might be placed on compactors in the future, be sure to select handles that are flush with the surface of the door. Handles that stick out will bump into cabinets when aisles are closed.

Keeping Objects Organized & Secure

Objects from this museum’s study collection are frequently moved from a secure storage space to classrooms down the hall. To keep artifacts organized and protected during transit to classrooms, the museum ordered locking cabinets on caster bases. The mobile cabinets are sized to accept trays from the larger cabinets, which helps with organization.

4. Configurability & Accessories

Look for interchangeable accessories that can be mixed and matched, along with removable interior panels allow you to change up the interior as your needs change. For instance, a Viking by Spacesaver preservation cabinet can be initially configured for two-inch trays, and the panels and accessories can be removed later and replaced with panels that support six-inch drawers, dividers, or even hanging rods and shelves.

The right accessories for any collection:

museum cabinet adjustable shelves

Adjustable Shelves

museum cabinet hat shelf coat rod

Half Shelf / Coat Rod

museum cabinet standard tray

Standard Tray

desiccant tray museum cabinet

Desiccant Tray

museum cabinet full extension drawer

Full-Extension Drawer

textile tray museum cabinet

Rolled Textile Tray & Drawer

museum cabinet optimize space

Partial-Height Center Divider

museum cabinet divided

Full-Height Center Divider

5. Visibility

Depending on your collection’s needs and your institution’s approach, you can choose solid doors, which shield collections from light, or visual doors, which allow staff and visitors to view collections without disturbing objects or disrupting the cabinets’ internal preservation environment.

museum glass door cabinets

museum cabinet solid steel door

Connect with the Museum Planning Experts

The best museum cabinets will protect your collections for years to come. If you’d like to learn more about your options, contact us to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. We can show you how other clients have solved collections storage challenges, and we can share insights and ideas to optimize your unique space. Contact us today to get started.

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