The Smithsonian defines collections space as "an area, owned or leased, enclosed or outdoors, the primary purpose of which is to permanently protect and preserve, through managed environmental and security controls, collections owned by or in the custody of the Smithsonian Institution in furtherance of its mission; and may include adjacent areas that provide managed environmental and security controls suitable to accommodate temporary use of collections.”
Collections space constitutes 18 percent of the Smithsonian’s facilities. The space provides temporary and permanent storage for collections of every possible type and size, requiring every conceivable method of care, creating safe and productive processing and laboratory space for all staff and researchers who work with collections.
In March 2013, the Smithsonian held a Summit on the Museum Preservation Environment. The purpose of the summit was to start a conversation over a gap in collections management policy at the Smithsonian, namely, that Smithsonian collections and facilities management staff desire a written standard and best practices document for the management of environments in spaces where collections are housed. They acknowledged that the controlled environments of many of the Smithsonian’s collections were based on commonly held notions of environmental “standards” (i.e., 70°F/45% RH with ± variations) that are at odds with current and even historical research findings and not understood by stakeholders to be the final and best preservation environment for all collections. They further recognized that establishing environments for long-term preservation of collections must take into account mandated and socially responsible energy savings and sustainability goals.
In 2015, the Office of the Deputy Undersecretary for Collections and Interdisciplinary Support (DUSCIS) released the Collections Space Framework Plan, identifying the greatest needs for collections space across the Smithsonian and recommending strategies that are realistic, flexible, and proactive—ones that will upgrade space today and meet projected needs in the coming years and decades.