The Western Science Center (WSC), located in the city of Hemet in the San Jacinto Valley in Riverside County, is one of the premiere museums in the state of California. The WSC is home to a large collection of archeological artifacts and Pleistocene Ice Age fossils that were unearthed at nearby Diamond Valley Lake.
McMurray Stern, led by Senior Design Consultant Dave Cagle, immediately sensed a challenge to provide museum storage solutions for WSC. From getting to meet “Max”—the largest mastodon found in the Western United States at the time of discovery—to providing a facility for the research, curation, and presentation of over one million specimens discovered during Diamond Valley Lake’s development, it’s no wonder this museum also serves as a charter school for elementary students. The museum features a full-scale simulated archeology and paleontology dig site, which is used by WSC staff in conjunction with local K-12 schools and colleges to teach proper excavation methods. In addition, the Center also stores all cultural resource material found in Riverside County.
As a museum that prides itself on being able to provide interaction and understanding with our past, it became more important than ever for the WSC to have a archeological storage system that could aid in organizing the massive amount of ancient artifacts and fossils in their possession—and, with the possibility of numerous building projects and additional excavations on the horizon, it became imperative that the Center have enough space to hold incoming and future collections. For this reason, the WSC brought McMurray Stern in as a consulting partner in the project.
The Western Science Center also had another goal—to be the first LEED® Platinum-certified museum in the country. This would be a challenge, due to the numerous efforts made to reduce the environmental impact of their facility (solar panels, water-efficient appliances, recycled and renewable building materials, to name a few). To provide cooling for the building (while contributing to LEED® points), the Center had installed a series of water pipes just below the surface of the floor, making installation of storage systems much more challenging. Meticulous plans needed to be made due to the fact that any false drilling could rupture piping—and lead to flooding.
“We are constantly complimented by visiting professionals on the wonderful condition of our state-of-the-art facility, McMurray Stern provided us with a beautiful, efficient, and assessable organization system that has made our facility a standout among museums in Southern California.” -Darla Abigt, Curator at the Western Science Center
When the WSC was constructed in 2006, it was built to be the first LEED® Platinum-certified museum in the state of California. Numerous efforts were made to reduce the environmental impact of the facility—solar panels, water-efficient appliances, recycled and renewable building materials)—but by far the largest was the installation of several water pipes just below the surface of the building to provide cooling for the facility.
This would make the installation of the high-density mobile storage solution that Cagle had proposed to create space for the Center’s artifacts in the repository challenging, as the museum storage solutions depended on being able to use recessed rail. Meticulous planning needed to occur to make sure the rail and the piping could coexist. “We had to be extremely careful not to puncture any holes in the pipes when adding the recessed railing beneath the floor,” says Cagle.
Acting as a “design-build” team, Cagle and the McMurray Stern team were able to not only work with the constraints of the water pipes, but they also created additional energy savings that contributed further to the Center’s LEED® initiatives, including the installation of lights on the high-density mobile storage systems that were motion-activated to reduce unnecessary use.
Within the compact mobile storage system, a combination of metal four-post shelving and specialty museum cabinets mounted on the moveable carriages created the necessary space optimization and protection for the Center’s artifacts. Working alongside of Dr. William Marshall, the Center’s Executive Director, Cagle was able to understand exactly what was being stored and the size—and was then able to optimize space within the shelves and cabinets by measuring each type of box and tray and adjust the height of the shelves accordingly.
Although there was the option for a mechanical-assist mode of operation for the large system, the Center decided to pursue the powered touchpad option for a variety of reasons. First, the touchpad provided a way to limit access for certain parts of the system—important when you have irreplaceable artifacts that should only be accessed by specific staff members.
There was the care of the collections to consider. With the powered system, the soft start and soft stop ensures that movement won’t jolt or jostle the system. Finally, the powered system controls were able to be integrated with the Center’s fire suppression system, which allows it to be parked in a certain configuration that can allows the fire suppression system to work properly. Once installed, the powered high-density mobile storage system has proven to be a huge benefit for the storage of the Center’s artifact collection—and also provided space for inevitable future growth.
In addition to the compact mobile storage, Cagle and his team also worked with the Center to install heavy-duty pallet racking in the repository area, as well as museum-grade storage cabinets in its Collections Preparations area.
What began as a 6,300 square-foot repository space turned into a customized high-density museum storage solution that will sustain the Center for generations to come. The phased approach of the project—Phase One included the installation of all system rails and Phase Two included the installation of carriages, cabinets, and shelving—helped the Center remain operational and able to access artifacts during the entire process, which took four months to complete.
“We are constantly complimented by visiting professionals on the wonderful condition of our state-of-the-art facility,” said Darla Abigt, Curator at the Western Science Center. “McMurray Stern provided us with a beautiful, efficient, and assessable organization system that has made our facility a standout among museums in Southern California.”