All Museums have a store of objects which are not on display to the public at any given time. Generally the larger the Museum the smaller the percentage actually on display. For instance it is estimated that only 1% of the items the British Museum holds are visible to the public.
Some museums have been inventive in trying to allow greater access to their stored collections. The National Railway Museum and Beamish Museum both have Open Storage areas within their museums, although these are more like exhibition areas than actual storage, but they allow more objects to be seen.
The Birmingham Museums have their own Museum Collection Centre, a huge building which holds 80% of their stored collections. Under normal circumstances this is open once a month to pre-booked visitors and is a fascinating place to visit.
Here at Rutland County Museum we have over 10,000 items in our collection, ranging in size from the gallows, through carts and tractors down to soap and matchsticks.
Many of these items are ephemera, such as photographs, postcards and pamphlets, which can’t easily be permanently displayed without risking their degradation. Textiles in particular are vulnerable to prolonged exposure to sunlight and need to be carefully stored to protect them. We can however make use of them within our temporary exhibitions, when they only receive limited exposure to daylight .
We do try to highlight items from our stored collections within our regular exhibition programme. Currently some of the exhibits from our stores have been released from captivity and are on display in the museum. Why not pay us a visit and see them for yourself.