Three Ways to Acquire Museum Storage Funding

Many museums rely on donations and memberships to fund their operating expenses and day-to-day maintenance needs. It can be difficult to raise funds, however, when significant collections storage renovations are urgently needed to ensure the long-term care of collections.

This can be an especially difficult challenge for small museums and those housed in historical — or downright outdated — buildings. Here are some options for finding museum storage funding that supports your long-term collections management goals while balancing your short-term financial needs.


Apply for a Grant

This may seem obvious, but a well-written grant can help make most types of collections storage projects feasible.

There are two main roads to securing collections stewardship grants.

1Apply first for a grant to hire the necessary consultants to better assess your storage needs, create a plan, and outline a budget.

Assuming this grant gets funded, you can then apply for a grant to execute the plan the following year.

2Assuming you already have a detailed plan and nearly accurate budget for the project, you can skip the first step and just apply for the grant to fund the execution of your project.

Spacesaver’s local space consultants will visit and measure your space, understand your needs, and help you create a plan for the products you’ll need.

They can even provide budgetary numbers and drawings to bolster your grant application.

3 Tips for Writing a Good Grant Proposal

1Ensure you fully understand what the mission of the grant is and what it can and cannot be used for. Speak specifically to how your project will support that mission in the proposal.

2Get the data first. Conduct studies, interview employees and visitors, and measure anything relevant to your project before you apply. For a collections storage project, this might be number of objects, time it takes to retrieve objects, data about exposure to light, humidity, or chemicals, or other data regarding how your collections are not currently being properly cared for.
This data not only provides a baseline to measure against, but also provides objective proof of your need.

3Remember the elements of a good proposal:


Why do you need this? How did you identify this need? What data do you have to support this? Who will benefit?


What specific activities will you carry out and who will do them? When will they happen? Who will manage the project?


How will the care, condition, management, access to, or use of museum collections improve? How will you measure this? How will you sustain this benefit?


Do the Project in Stages to Garner Support

If you are relying on any type of non-grant funding to support your project (such as private donations), sticker shock can bring even the most urgent projects to a halt. Instead of bringing a big, intimidating budget number to the board, work in phases.

Secure the funding for one small storage area, cabinet, or small compactor. Use the positive results from that initial investment to make the case for the next phase. Even if you don’t have any funding right now, getting drawings of the updated space can help make the need more tangible for stakeholders.

Mobile Museum Shelving at Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon

Columbia River Maritime Museum

The Columbia River Maritime Museum recently installed a Spacesaver compactor system to store ship models and other smaller items in its collection. The system offers plenty of storage space at the moment, but the collection is always growing and staff is already anticipating the need for taller shelving. This will allow the museum to take full advantage of the building’s vertical space — and give staff time to fundraise for the project.



If you have deaccessioned objects that are no longer relevant to your collection, the funds from deaccessioning can ethically be used for the direct care of collections. As defined by AAM, direct care includes any project that makes “physical or immediate impact on object that increases its cultural or scientific value, thus prolonging its useful life” and is not part of a museum’s operating budget.

Updated museum cabinets, shelving, and compactors typically fall within the category of direct care of collections, assuming the project is not typically part of the operating budget.

Let’s Talk

Whether you’ve already started the process of securing funding or just want to start putting together plans and budgets, we’re here to partner with you throughout the process. We offer a full line of museum storage solutions and over 40 years of expertise in designing collections storage for all sizes and types of museums.