From rare books and historic research documents to art and photos to artifacts representing the wide range of uses for chemistry in our everyday life – the Chemical Heritage Foundation has a large variety of items to store and care for. Headquartered in Philadelphia, PA, The Chemical Heritage Foundation is part museum, part research and outreach facility dedicated to preserving the history of modern scientific discoveries from the past 200 years.

16 Feet for 8,000 Boxes

With such a unique array of items comes a uniquely difficult organization project. When Patrick Shea, Chief Curator of Archives and Manuscripts, came to the CHF, the existing archive facilities were at capacity, but there was still a large backlog of materials that had never been properly filed. To manage the overflow, new archival acquisitions had to be shipped to an offsite storage facility in Delaware. Not only did the additional facility create a 2-day turnaround for obtaining archive materials, but it also meant a hefty monthly fee.

To continue providing the highest level of customer service, CHF realized it was essential to get their collections back on-site. However, with a downtown location, major expansion didn’t seem like an option. Instead, the CHF opted to purchase and revitalize a vacant historical building nearby – but the 1850s structure came with some restrictions. The city’s Historical Commission had asked CHF to respect the original profile of the building, which meant they could only extend the width – and even then, they were only able to bump it out by four feet, bringing the overall width to a mere 16 feet.

From the User:

“One of the things about our library, being a research library, we don't have open shelves for people to come and just browse through and pick materials. So we have to have the kind of product that allows us quick and easy access. Researchers would stop using us if it took hours to get the things for them that they need.”

Ronald Brashear - Othmer Library Director

Partnerships Lead to Solutions

Recognizing the challenge ahead, Chemical Heritage Foundation reached out to Ed Barnhart of Always by Design Architecture. Barnhart had partnered with CHF on multiple projects over the previous 10 years, but Barnhart knew that the new archival storage was going to be particularly challenging due to the space constraints. After the exterior face of the building was stabilized, Barnhart investigated creating four individual floors in the building – but when he accounted for an elevator and two egress stairways, there was no real useable space for the archival storage.

Complex Project, Simple Solution

It was a difficult, challenging project, and in working with Spacesaver and DSSI, we knew exactly what the system was and what the dimensions were. That made it a very straightforward installation and a smooth operation.

Ed Barnhart - Architect for Chemical Heritage Foundations Archival Storage Facility Project

Barnhart realized the only way to build storage was straight up – which is why he reached out to DSSI, remembering that Spacesaver manufactured a “pretty amazing high-bay system.” As an authorized Spacesaver distributor, we worked with Barnhart and CHF to assess the space and engineer a 36-foot tall Xtend electric compact high density shelving system, with one moveable range between two fixed shelves. The archival storage solution enabled the Foundation to achieve 8,400 linear feet of shelf space to house existing collections, with room to grow. Anti-tip protection and fire code compliance ensure that the collections are safe for years to come.

Accessibility, Space for the Future

By CHF’s estimation, the new archival storage system created enough room to accommodate another 20 years of acquisitions. The staff can now easily access materials to serve patrons more quickly. When speaking about the high-density mobile storage system, Chief Curator of Archives and Manuscripts Patrick Shea puts it simply. “What this really does is allows us to save things which would otherwise be lost.”

In addition to our work at CHF, we’ve worked with several other organizations, such as the Moravian Archives, to preserve and organize the heritage they hold dear. Click here to learn more about our off-site archival storage solutions.