Leeuwarden, the capital of the region, has successfully bid to become the European Capital of Culture 2018. And alongside its increased cultural profile, there has been an uptick in investment in the region. One significant milestone has been the construction of a groundbreaking museum repository, which opened on 12 May 2016 after a 10-month build. The Friesland Collections Centre – or “Kolleksjesintrum Fryslân” – houses the collections of five regional museums under one roof: the Friesland Museum; Tresoar (Friesian History and Literature Centre); Friesland Museum of Natural History; Friesian Maritime Museum; and Frysk Lânbou Museum (Friesian Agricultural Museum).
The resulting energy-efficient building expresses the ambition of the town in which it was built. In the world of heritage where budget cuts and limited resources are a big issue, museum professionals and collections specialists are already looking to this flagship collections centre – based on the so-called ‘Danish model’ for sustainable museums – as a example for the future.
Advantages of a central collections centre
In common with many other museums around the world, the five institutions with materials in the Friesland Collections Centre have in the past had to deal with high storage costs and inefficient logistics, because their collections were spread across a number of different locations. A central storage facility in a new building, developed specifically to meet sustainability targets, offered a clever, low-impact solution.
The design of the centre took into account the environment and the use of sustainable materials. The collections are stored in a ‘black box’ encased in rust-coloured walls of powder-coated aluminium. Ribs on the exterior of the building create alcoves where climbing plants can flourish, linking the building to its natural surroundings. A central aisle connects the three storage rooms to a series of workspaces. Sustainable materials have been used in the construction of the interior of the building, including using fast-growing bamboo for the doors.
The building requires no artificial heating or cooling systems: only the humidity is regulated. The design is based on a series of concrete storage spaces with an airtight shell and a concrete floor. The deliberately uninsulated concrete floor works as a geothermal accumulator, which ensures a consistent indoor temperature throughout the year. Depending on the seasons, the temperature in the stores varies between 10°C and 18°C. The roof and walls are heavily insulated, providing an exceptionally high R-value of thermal insulation. An air/water pump keeps the temperature at a comfortable level for working, while a mechanical ventilation system replenishes the air inside. LED lighting and motion sensors help reduce the consumption of electricity. The solar panels that are mounted on the roof provide enough electricity for the entire building. The average repository temperature of 12°C is considerably colder than that commonly used to store artefacts in a museum. The combination of solar generation and high efficiency has ensured that the operating costs are 50% lower than those of a traditional repository, with energy consumption similar to that of a small domestic dwelling.
It has been a year since the collections centre opened. What are your first experiences with the innovative climate concept you have adopted? Has it turned out as well as expected?
At this point we cannot confirm 100% if the climate control concept has worked exactly as planned. The temperature is allowed to change throughout the year, provided it stays within certain parameters (for example no higher than 20°C) and the humidity remains constant. The temperature in the repository was 14°C last winter and in May 2017 it was about 18°C. We have recently made an adjustment to the technical control system. Its setting was too sensitive and therefore it operated too frequently. I keep a careful eye on everything. Also we need to consider that not all of the collections have been place in their final locations. That may also play a part and influence climate control in the repository in future.
Luitzen Schaafsma, coordinator of the collections centre
A special storage concept
Collections are grouped based on their material makeup and storage requirements, rather than their source (or ‘ownership’) in order to optimise storage conditions. Metal objects are stored with other metal objects, paintings with paintings and so on. As a result, the collections from different museums are combined and the space is utilised more effectively. Arranging the collections in this way has resulted in a space reduction of 40%. The different items are marked with barcodes, so everything can be found easily.
Space-saving storage solutions
The efficient deployment of the available depot space was realized not only through mixed storage. The use of Bruynzeel’s space-saving storage solutions also played a major role.
Installing DoubleDecker systems was the biggest space saving solution. DoubleDeckers are mobile shelving with an integrated storey. To reach a certain storage rack, other racks are moved to create an isle at the decidered position. The safety of the stored collections is guaranteed by the constant speed of movement which remains the same no matter how heavy the shelves are loaded. When moving the System the shelves on the upperfloor move together with the shelves on the groundfloor. The first storey floor consists of a trellis work which only carries the weight of the person standing on it. The so called ventilation setting makes sure that the shelves can be set in a specific postion for a specific time. For example with space between each rack for ventilation.
Other storage Solutions that were selected for this depot are fixed and pull-out picture racks, heavy duty mobile racks and fixed racks. Some of the objects are stored to a plan that was created before the collections were moved to the new building. It will take some time to ad the missing objects and make some little adjustments to ensure the best possible setting.
We spoke to Luitzen Schaafsma, coordinator of the collections centre, about the move and the challenge of combining collections from five museums.
Schaafsma confirmed that the logistics of moving the collections proved to be difficult. Most of the items that were brought to the collections centre still needed to be cleaned, identified (barcoded) and decontaminated. Decontamination was conducted in small batches, so the centre chose to install temporary low-oxygen tents to carry out this process. All artefacts were stored there for five weeks after arrival. Defining a schedule for the arrival of deliveries was crucial in order to avoid the collections being stored in an unsuitable environment, even for a short period.
The low-oxygen room was essential for decontamination of all incoming artefacts.
My advice would be to clean and barcode all items before the move, so they only need to be decontaminated and put into place. This improves the logistics in the new repository considerably. Also I would advise anyone building a new repository to include a temporary transition room for incoming collections. Luitzen Schaafsma, coordinator of the collections centre
Friesland Collections Centre: Numbers
2,000 m² storage space
1,000 m² workspace
16 km shelves and more than 2,400 (various sized) drawers
2 km textile storage
2,600 m² picture racking
2,000 m² large object storage