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Saturday, May 31 • 2:20pm - 2:40pm
(Collection Care + HVAC Session) Developing Sustainable Storage for the Science Museum Group UK- the Hemcrete Museum Store (HMS)

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The Science Museum, the National Railway Museum and the National Media Museum have their main storage facility on a repurposed WWII airfield an hour west of London, in Wiltshire. Here are stored large and mid-sized objects from the science, technology, industrial, communications, transport, space and medicine collections as well as textiles, fine art, archives and library materials.

Collections are stored in eight 1930’s hangars, two 1940’s brick buildings and one 1990’s purpose-built store on the 545 acre site. The hangars are unheated and only one has any insulation. The brick buildings have been upgraded with added insulation and wood-chip boiler heating. The purpose-built store has insulation, vapour barriers and oil- fueled conservation heating. High relative humidity levels are an issue in the unheated hangars but can also be a problem in the other buildings.

A small Conservation and Collections Care team on site is responsible for the preservation, remedial treatment, storage and movement of the objects; the buildings and systems are maintained by the national Estates team.

Performance indicators, based on the ‘10 Agents of Deterioration’ (Robert Waller 1994) and updated UK environmental standards (PAS198:2012), are used to assess storage conditions. Storage areas are graded for materials and types of object. Rehousing objects based on this system has meant that many of the less stable have been stored in more suitable conditions without increasing need for air conditioning and mechanical systems. Resources have been directed at targeted areas in an attempt to save money without reducing standards of care.

In 2010 it became essential to develop an environmentally-controlled yet sustainable store on the Wroughton site. Suitable space was needed for a nationally important archive as well as eighty large wooden ship models, twenty-five horse-drawn carriages and the Science Museum’s framed art collection.

A conventional store had been built inside a hangar to house archival materials; heated by a wood-chip boiler, it has been costly to run with poor relative humidity control. With knowledge of passive building techniques gained from workshops, lectures and research, an innovative use of traditional building materials was chosen for the new build, to go in the remaining hangar space. A much-reduced heating and ventilation system was installed after modelling supported the decision. The building was completed in June 2012 and, although there were a number of issues, predominately with the building management system, by May 2013 it was running at less than a third of the cost of the conventional store. From May to September 2013, the building itself moderated the relative humidity without recourse to the air handling system, with an average 60% RH and fluctuations of less than 2% over 24 hours.

To date, HMS has won three major awards in the UK for sustainability and innovation in building and heritage.

Research into sustainable building methods for museum storage continues at Wroughton with the development of the University of Bath BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials’ new research park and a part-time PhD presently being undertaken by the author.


Marta Leskard

Conservation and Collection Care Manager, Science Museum, UK
Marta Leskard received an Master's in Art Conservation from Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, in 1982 following on from a 1st class Honours BA in Classics (Greek & Latin) and an MA in Archaeology (Minoan & Mycenaean). With 32 years experience as a conservator and conservation... Read More →

Saturday May 31, 2014 2:20pm - 2:40pm PDT
Pacific Concourse D-E