As a public health precaution due to COVID-19, all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are temporarily closed. We are not announcing a reopening date at this time and will provide updates on our website and social media.

Crating Collections for Safe Keeping

The first step in preparing more than 200,000 square feet of exhibition space for major renovation requires that the area no longer be exhibition space.

As a result, Museum staff members and contractors have been busy relocating many of the objects that had previously been on display. Some of these objects have been moved to storage rooms within the building, but some of the larger items could no longer be maintained onsite, which means they must be carefully secured, packed and shipped to the Museum’s other storage locations.

Since the Museum's closure in 2006, more than 350 objects have been specially crated for removal from the Museum. These pieces vary from the time measuring devices in the Museum’s On Time exhibition to objects that are actually buildings in and of themselves, which creates a whole new set of considerations. For instance, the Post Office from Headsville, W.Va., that once operated near the entrance on the first floor had to be carefully dismantled before it could be crated for removal.

Crating objects is not as simple as packing boxes when one moves, though, as each phase involves careful protection of each individual object. Objects must first be raised onto a wooden pallet. Then portions of the object must be covered with protective foam cushioning called Volara to ensure that the strapping and banding needed to secure the object never actually touches it. Once the object is secured with the straps and banding, the remainder of the crate is constructed around the object. While multiple objects can be crated together, the objects must belong to the same collections for cataloging and storage purposes. The final phase of the process is actually moving the crates to an offsite facility and storage.

Part II: Rigging
Some objects are too big even for crates, which requires an entirely different removal process known as rigging.  Read the story

Learn More about the Renovation
The Museum closed in 2006 for a major architectural transformation focusing on three areas: architectural enhancements to the museum’s interior, constructing a state-of-the-art gallery for the Star-Spangled Banner and updating the 42-year-old building’s infrastructure (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, lighting, fire and security systems.) It reopened November 21, 2008.  Learn more.