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Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

In 2020, WJ&A completed a Collections Storage Needs Assessment for the VMFA, funded by the Institute for Museums and Library Services (IMLS). This past summer the VMFA announced their selection of the Smith Group as the firm hired for the designing and construction of their new expansion. WJ&A completed the important step of understanding the capacity needs and expansion opportunities related to collections storage and exhibition by critically reviewing current collection storage needs. More about the new construction project here.

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Initial Review

The Collections Storage Needs Assessment began with an in-depth look at several collections storage spaces. The WJ&A Team reviewed storage equipment, spatial use, housing and organization methods, as well as toured various paths art and objects take around the museum. The WJ&A Team interviewed staff within collections and exhibitions to comprehensively assess the Museum’s collections’ needs.

Data Collection

WJ&A collected data for this assessment by conducting a general survey of the collections equipment in each space. This survey required capturing equipment measurements that could be used to calculate volumetric capacity. Additionally, for collections not stored in or on storage equipment, WJ&A gathered object dimensions and material information that is essential for recommending appropriate storage methods.

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Art Movement

Architectural members of the WJ&A team from Sandra Vicchio & Associates, LLC., captured both the collections space features and dimensions. SVA facilitated a tour through storage spaces, hallways, and galleries to illustrate the complex paths art and objects take throughout the VMFA’s facilities.

Assessment Calcuations

For calculating space needs, WJ&A considered a variety of factors that affect collections storage:

  1. Collections vulnerabilities

  2. Preservation needs

  3. Decompression

  4. Circulation

  5. Material and housing

  6. Growth of the collection

  7. Equipment type

  8. Institutional collections organization

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Collaborative Development

WJ&A facilitated two collaborative in-depth workshops with VMFA staff and stakeholders. In the Objectives Workshop the VMFA staff identified goals for new collections storage, auxiliary and support spaces, and collections needs. The WJ&A Team took these objectives and priorities and developed strategies that methodically addressed these objectives. In the Strategies Workshop the VMFA Team considered the possible strategies developed by the WJ&A team, and collaboratively identified their organizational responsibilities for meeting the identified objectives through these strategies.

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The WJ&A Team illustrated several strategies for spatial reconfiguration, storage equipment, and construction of collections storage to meet the volumetric and preservation needs for the VMFA’s expanding collection. Data and metrics gathered during the assessment were further informed by the content of WJ&A Team led interviews with VMFA staff, and the Objectives and Strategies Workshops.


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Moving Forward

In 2020 the VMFA announced the Smith Group as their design and construction team for their renovation and construction project. The Collections Storage Needs Assessment is intended to provide organizational objectives with informed data on collections that can be utilized in new design and construction.


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