History has an undeniable appeal. It’s fun to look back at where we’ve been – to examine how people lived, to re-experience great moments, and to learn valuable lessons from the lives and deeds of others. Living in the Southeast United States, I always relish an opportunity to stand in an exact place where history happened. Whether standing on the very spot where Wilbur and Orville Wright first achieved flight on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, walking through the historic homes of Charleston or even touring Florida’s Cape Canaveral, I always feel a rush of excitement. These aren’t replicas; they’re the real deal!
Watch Now! P2 Talks Multiple Storage Solutions at Cincinnati Museum Center
The End of the Line & Setting a New Track
The photo above shows Union Terminal in Cincinnati. Built in 1933 in an Art Deco style, it was one of the last great train stations built. It’s seen quite a bit of history itself. It operated as a functioning railway station for nearly 40 years, but by late October 1972, it was handling only two trains per day. After lying dormant for eight years, it opened as a shopping complex in 1980. In the early ’90s, it became a museum complex, housing the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History & Scienceand the Cincinnati History Museum – first as separate entities, then together beginning in 1995 as the Cincinnati Museum Center. In 1998, the Duke Energy Children’s Museum came on board, as well.
By 2014, more than 80 years of activity had begun to take its toll on the Union Terminal infrastructure. Jennifer Jensen is the registrar at the Cincinnati Museum Center. She well remembers the city’s campaign for a quarter-cent sales tax to support the terminal’s renovation.
“We were very lucky – that sales tax passed,” she said. “To allow us to do the renovation, we had to empty both our History Museum and our Natural History Museum. To do that, we needed more storage space at the Geier Collections and Research Center, which is located about a mile from the terminal. We needed to move over a million books and the manuscripts collections, in addition to about 5,000 oversized artifacts from the history museum and an additional 2,000 from the natural history museum.”
A big job? Well that’s an understatement.
Gordon Kwiecinski (pronounced “kwah-ZIN-skee”) has worked on a number of museum projects over the years. He too recalls the imposing size of the move. “Not everything came out,” he said, “but 80% of what they had on display did, along with some of the collections that were still housed at the museums. It was a lot of stuff. I’m kind of a history buff, though, so I was fascinated with it all.”
Now, moving and storing irreplaceable items is a lot different than you or me deciding to clean out the garage on a nice fall day. Yeah, no matter how special we find those autographed baseballs and old bowling trophies, they don’t have nearly the significance as items that help recount the growth of one of America’s most bustling Midwest cities. Careful transport and storage of these items was absolutely imperative.
“To accommodate all of the additional collections that were being added here at Geier, we needed to rethink how we were using it,” said Jensen. “Originally, we just had cabinetry and long-run shelving in very large rooms. One of the biggest reasons we ended up working with Patterson Pope is because they were really interested in making sure that the systems that we did have that weren’t functional for us, we could reuse, in addition to supplying new systems that would enhance what we already had.”
All in all, five primary collections got additional space by adding compact shelving. Zoology got an Eclipse powered system to accommodate new and existing conservation cabinets; , Over-size History Objects (e.g., furniture, horse-drawn sleds, etc.) are now housed in a Mechanical Assist with 10’ high shelving. Ditto for the magnificent manuscript collection and the printed works collection. The increase is space was enormous.
“For oversize history objects, we didn’t gain any additional space, but we were able to get it into a footprint that was about a third of where it had been. That allowed us to open up additional space for other collections areas that had a higher need for storage capacity, particularly in the case of our manuscripts and archives,” added Jensen. “In those collections, we were able to add approximately 60-70% of additional space that we didn’t originally have. Zoology went from being in a 5,000 square foot room to a footprint of less than 2,000 square feet. As a result, we were able to add a 2,000 square foot preparatory area/workspace. It made a huge difference.”
Spacesaver’s Hang Glider Pro®, a ceiling-mounted rack, wasn’t an option in this case because the ceiling couldn’t support the weight. Necessity being the mother of invention, Patterson Pope worked with Jensen and the experts at Spacesaver to devise a new solution for the Center’s art racks. The Spacesaver floor-mounted Freestanding Art RAC was engineered to order. In fact, the Geier Center was the first installation of the new product, which features steel construction and double-sized wire mesh flush with frame on both sides.
Storage Solutions Included:
Oversize Objects: ActivRAC 7M with RaptorRAC
Zoology: Eclipse with Conservation Cabinets and 4-Post shelving
Manuscript: Mechanical Assist with 4-Post Shelving
Library Storage: Mechanical Assist with Case Shelving repurposed from Emory University
Art Storage: Spacesaver Freestanding Art RAC (ETO)
“We knew we needed to quadruple the amount of space that we had to move the collection we had from Union Terminal into this facility as well as finding a solution for some of the art that was stored inadequately,” said Jensen. “We came up with two large mobile art rack systems that have allowed us to gain over 12,000 square feet of additional storage space in a room with only a 5,000 square foot footprint. We’re extraordinarily happy because for the first time, the majority of our art actually fits on the racks in the space.”
For Jensen, there have been a lot of wins in the project overall. “We’ve been thrilled with the extra storage that we’ve been able to achieve,” she said. “In the case of oversize history objects, we moved them from an area with a much lower ceiling to an area with a tremendously high ceiling – and we were able to utilize that. In many cases we had really tall items that wouldn’t fit in the old spaces unless they were on their sides or flat. So, for the first time, we’ve actually been able to house our history objects in a more appropriate way – which is safer for them in the long-term. We’ve been really happy. It was a great experience.”
Storage is an important part of the museum industry. Typically, only 10% of a museum’s collection is on display at any one time. Ensuring that the totality of those collections is properly housed and secured is a labor of love – for both conservators and Patterson Pope pros alike.
Union Terminal is seeing Amtrak trains come through now. The Cincinnati Museum Center renovation – restoring it to its original wonder – should be complete sometime in 2018. When that happens, the newly organized museums will have an historic feel yet be fresh at the same time. The renovation and the presence of those familiar train whistles will surely evoke memories of the past – and generate excitement for the future.
For more information on the project, please check out our Case Study
(Museum cases shown are manufactured by Delta Designs Ltd. of Topeka, KS)