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Down below, deep under the museum…

One of the things I love, in general, is getting to go behind the scenes and see the things not everybody sees. Whether that is being backstage in a theatre, being behind the scenes in an event, or going into a museum depot – I just love to get a look around the nuts-and-bolts areas, to see how the mundane day-to-day things are handled, how stuff is stored.

Fortunately, doing museum presentations, giving workshops and demonstrating crafts at events means that I get plenty of opportunities to go backstage in the wider sense, and in a lot of different places. (Next up: the Adventon. I’m already looking forward to that.)

What is especially wonderful about the backstage-going are depots. Museums have most of their things not in the exhibition, but somewhere in storage, and these depots are absolutely fascinating. (They also serve a purpose – they are not only safe storage for historical items, but also help the museums to fulfill their obligation to further research; and not all items are in a condition that they can be on display continuously, so the depot and rotation of objects makes sure that they will last.) I have next to no pictures of depots that I can show you, though, only pictures of individual items – but then, different storage areas have as many different solutions as you can imagine, ranging from regular shelves to specialised drawer cabinets. And of course there’s the good old space-saving solution:


I have no clue what these are really called, but they are basically sliding shelves that form a closed box when they are sitting right next to each other. Turn the handles (slowly – always slowly and carefully!) and a whole block of these shelves gently rolls to the side, letting you access the spot you need. These are… awesome. Absolutely, utterly awesome.

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5 Responses to Down below, deep under the museum…

  1. Lena says:

    We call them roller racks at work, but internet suggests that mobile shelving is a more correct term.

    What kind of fun things did you see at the museum?

    • Katrin says:

      In the museum the photo was taken in? There I got to see the Hallstatt originals (the salt mine textiles), along with hair or veil pins from graves (I did an experiment with a colleague about these) – and diverse odds and ends, too. In the last museum I was in, I didn’t get to see the depot, but I got to go through the “backstage” area. I’m easy to please in that regard!

  2. Stefan Kirchberger says:

    The German term is ‘Kompaktusanlage’. We are using it for storing the textiles from the ‘Schiesser’ collection.

    Viele Grüße,

  3. Bruce Lee says:

    In Australian English they are called ‘Compactus’ which I suspect is a brand name which has become the common name.

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