Behind the Scenes of NMC’s Collection: Moving to Studio Bell Part 1

February 08, 2016

Packing Pre-offsite move_840pix

Non-exhibition objects, packed and ready to move offsite. Credit: Hayley Robb

As anyone that has moved houses before knows, it is hardly ever done in one big push.

With historical artifacts in particular—well it’s a little trickier than throwing all your clothes into a suitcase and calling up your cousin Doug to help carry your mattress down the stairs.

When it comes to the over 2,000 objects in NMC’s collection, there are multiple phases of planning, organization, and packing that must take place before even one guitar or cowboy boot is moved into the new digs at Studio Bell.

Moving Broadwood _840pix

Collections team members—including Director of Collections Jesse Moffatt—move a Broadwood & Son Paris Exhibition Grant Piano out of the way to make space for exhibition staging in the gallery. Credit: Hayley Robb

Over the course of the past year at NMC, the collections department has been busy preparing all historical objects—as well as all the workshop supplies, tools and paraphernalia needed to care for said objects—for the big move this spring.

As seen in previous blog posts, much of those preparations involve getting all artifacts that will not be on display in the new Studio Bell ready for long-term storage.

Michelle Wright Jacket_840pix

Collection Assistant Meghan MacKrous packs up Canadian country music artist Michelle Wright’s suit jacket from the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame Collection. Credit: Hayley Robb

Thanks to funding from the Calgary Foundation, NMC has been able to implement one very big tool in the pursuit of safe, long-term storage of artifacts: high-density mobile shelving.

Often seen in libraries and museum storage rooms, mobile storage systems are made up of shelving units that collapse and expand—thereby creating movable shelf units and eliminating fixed aisles, which enables the storage of the same amount of items in half the footprint.

Installed at our offsite storage facility, these high-density mobile shelving units are now the permanent home for all electronic instruments not slated for display at Studio Bell—as well as various textile artifacts from the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame (CCMHF) collection and small collection objects.

A peek at NMC collection artifacts in the mobile shelving units at our offsite facility. This compact storage system allows for accessible, high-density storage in small spaces. Credit: Hayley Robb

A peek at NMC collection artifacts in the mobile shelving units at our offsite facility. This compact storage system allows for accessible, high-density storage in small spaces. Credit: Hayley Robb

Oversized objects—such as pianos, organs, and harpsichords—that will not be on display in our new building were also packed up and taken to our offsite facility for long term storage.

Because these instruments are a little too big for the high-density storage units, they were instead packed in wooden crates and stacked on shelves for long-term storage.

Paradise Crating 4_840pix

Pianos are securely crated by Paradise Packaging Ltd. Credit: Meghan MacKrous

The advantage of crating all offsite pianos is twofold: not only do the crates protect the instruments from the harmful effects of light, dust, and physical abrasion—they also turn a difficult instrument shape into simple, rectangular blocks that can be stacked on top of each other. This allowed us to brush up on our Tetris skills while maximizing storage in a tight space.

Vault Crates 1_840pix

Real-life museum Tetris with piano crates at NMC’s offsite storage facility. Credit: Hayley Robb

As of now, all instruments and artifacts not slated for use or display in Studio Bell have been safely transported to our offsite storage facility.

All workshop tools and supplies that have been used for 13 years to restore, repair, and care for the instruments in NMC’s collection have been lovingly packed by volunteers and staff to be moved into our new workshops in the spring.

Stay tuned for part two of the move update, as NMC completes the final push to move all exhibition artifacts and living collection instruments into their new homes in Studio Bell.


– Hayley Robb

Questions or Comments?  Email me at



Connect with NMC:

About the Author

Hayley Robb

Hayley is an objects conservator, specializing in the care and treatment of decorative art and historical objects. At NMC, she is responsible for the recovery and reorganization of the electronic parts collection damaged in the flood. Born and raised in Calgary, she is happy to be back in her hometown after 6 years in Ontario.

The National Music Centre Mailing List

Subscribe to receive news, updates and special promotions.