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Ideas / Client Stories / 2.27.2024

Museums Advocacy Day: The Importance of Collections

Dulles Collection Center

Museums Advocacy Day, a two-day annual event organized by the American Alliance of Museums, serves as a platform for museum professionals and supporters to advocate for the indispensable role of museums in advancing arts and heritage. At Ayers Saint Gross, we have a long history of working with museums around the world, including planning work for the National Zoological Park, the National Air and Space Museum, and the Smithsonian Collections; design work for collections facilities; and ongoing siting work for the upcoming National Museum of the American Latino and Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum. In honor of Museum Advocacy Day and our commitment to creating places for shared knowledge and culture, we are shining a light on collections spaces.

As the often invisible yet crucial backbone of museums, collections shape curatorial visions and inspire visitors to explore distinctive exhibitions. For over a decade, Ayers Saint Gross has been actively engaged in supporting Smithsonian museums in the meticulous processing and storage of their collections. This effort requires that we work with a diverse group of museum professionals to ensure the safeguarding of collections of incredible value – ranging from antique stamps to large aeronautical equipment. Projects centered around such unique holdings spark curiosity within our team and lead to diverse problem-solving opportunities.

This is evident in an engaged programming and planning phase, which allows us to understand the specific needs of individual departments: how many collections they have and how much they plan to accumulate over time, as well as how collections are received, handled, processed, and stored. This process helps us determine sufficient space and operational needs.

As designers, we take the time to ensure that each museum professional has the proper spaces needed where they can do their jobs effectively, and that the storage facilities are detailed appropriately in terms of space, furnishings, security, and environmental conditions to house specific types of collections. Simultaneously, we have developed standardized models based on typical operations and expectations to ensure efficiency in the building design process.

Currently, we are working with Smithsonian Institution on a pan-institutional collections campus master plan. This transformative project aims to accommodate a diverse range of collections from multiple museums, fostering interdisciplinary discussions and ensuring the preservation of our nation’s treasures.

From vision to implementation, we take pride in our role in designing and constructing nearly 500,000 square feet cumulatively of collections space that aligns with the Smithsonian’s ambitious sustainability goals. Our experienced design approach allows for massing, construction, and cladding that is refined and elevated based on an engaged feedback loop with their team. We have also established parameters for an integrated sustainable building systems approach, looking beyond LEED to advocate for other sustainability certifications that foster alternative design solutions. Through our collaborative efforts, we aim to reinforce the vital role of collections in preserving our cultural heritage for generations to come.

Pictured: The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Dulles Collections Center Storage Module

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