Collection Storage: Historic Buildings

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This content is excerpted from Preventive Conservation: Collection Storage (2019), Elkin and Norris, eds.

Chapter 6: Balancing Collection Storage with Historic Buildings

Nancy McCoy, McCoy Collaborative Preservation Architecture, LLC, Dallas, Texas

The reuse of a historic building for collection storage presents some special challenges, particularly when the historic building was not designed for this purpose. In some instances, detrimental effects to the building can result from changes necessary to create appropriate space and environmental conditions. Likewise, the building may have inherent characteristics that left unaddressed can have detrimental effects on the collection. Determining whether the building and collection are compatible involves a discovery process that exposes potential conflicts. To achieve compatibility, the goals for the preservation of the historic building are usually balanced with the goals for preserving the collection, without adverse effect to either. Finding this balance ideally involves an evaluation before a building is acquired for, or committed to, its new use. This chapter provides an overview of historic building legislation and regulation followed by a description of a methodology for evaluating the compatibility between the building and the collection with focus on

  1. use with respect to space allocation,
  2. structural considerations,
  3. the building envelope,
  4. HVAC, electrical, plumbing and other building systems;
  5. building code compliance; and 6) special maintenance needs.


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