Biodiversity Information Science and Standards : Conference Abstract
Conference Abstract
Collections Access and Custom Storage Solutions at the Smithsonian’s Museum Support Center
expand article info Daniella Haigler
‡ Smithsonian Institution, Suitland, United States of America
Open Access


The National Museum of Natural History is committed to long-term stewardship of collections and to supporting their use by scientists and the general public. This stewardship role is unique among other US natural history museums. As the nation’s natural history museum, the National Museum of Natural History has a mandated commitment to conserve and protect its collections in a manner that will assure their continued accessibility by future generations and maintain the National Museum of Natural History mission.

A significant number of objects from the National Museum of Natural History are permanently stored at the Museum Support Center in Suitland, MD. This space not only includes collections from the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), but also the Museum Conservation Institute (MCI), the National Museum of American History (NMAH), the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (HMSG), the Freer Sackler Gallery (FSG) and the National Museum of African Art (AfA) as well as several other museums.

In terms of collections access and use, the museum support center has a team, Collections Support Services (CSS), dedicated to collections’ long-term care and preservation. Collections Support Services provides access and support for the 730,000 square feet of collections housed at MSC. CSS staff perform a variety of technical and labor tasks related to the cleaning, preparation, packing, transport, unpacking, and permanent storage of objects and specimens. This includes building custom aluminum pallets for oversized objects and whale skull cradles.

Moreover, while the use of palletized storage is not a new concept in museum storage, the construction of Pod 4 at the Museum Support Center in Suitland, MD posed some unique challenges for the permanent storage of oversized collections. Pod 4 provides continuous rows of 2', 4' and 8' deep cantilevered open racking from floor to ceiling (22 feet high), and allows palletized objects to be moved and placed in the racking via forklift. Traditional wooden pallets are unacceptable by archival standards, as they are acidic by nature, bulky, heavy, not fire-retardant, and prone to pest infestation. Collections Support Services circumvented these issues by establishing an innovative system of customized aluminum pallets for collections’ long-term care and preservation. These pallets are durable and lightweight, and must pass several quality control tests that include dropping and jarring. They are also designed with multiple functions in mind for ease of use, storage, transport, and maintenance.


collections access, collections stewardship, aluminum pallet, storage, preservation, over-sized collections, customization

Presenting author

Daniella C. Haigler


This project could not have been accomplished without the assistance of Greta Hansen, Craig Huzway, Sunae Park Evans, and Marion Mecklenburg. Thank you to the rest of the CSS staff (Leslie Schuhmann, Criis Geer-Chagnon, Richard Stoyer, and Jessie Meltzer). And thanks to JR Smith for allowing participation in SPNHC 2018.