Friday, August 15, 2014

How to Build a Family Museum - Building Materials

The next eight posts will feature the nuts & bolts of how to build your family museum with what materials, continuing with posts on where in your home can your family museum be in. There is a plethora of resources to visit, either by searching the Internet or by going to the brick-and-mortar stores to find, learn and compare all the things you need to construct your museum.

Building Materials
Depending on your museum(s) location(s), whether you buy freestanding furniture, ready-made cabinetry, install do-it-yourself modular units, or hire a carpenter to build a custom unit, of which he or she can suggest types of woods, finishes, paint colors, trim, accessories, lighting, glass doors and/or shelves, give yourself and the carpenter plenty of time to create your museum. After you identify the size and content of your heirlooms and explore your museum style options, the list below gives an overall description of materials that will best fit your collection(s) needs.

Solid Hardwoods
Light-toned woods: oak, ash, maple, beech, and birch
Dark-toned species: cherry, walnut, and mahogany
Budget-minded hardwoods: alder, poplar, and aspen
Softwoods: pine, fir, and knotty pine. Wood boards come in many lengths & widths and can be stained or painted. Carpentry skills are necessary to fashion these woods into the sizes you need.
 Sheet Products
Hardwood-veneered plywood can be used for constructing your museum. Plywood panels are more stable than solid lumber and less likely to warp. Plywood used for shelving is usually surfaced on front and back with attractive hardwood veneers such as oak, maple, ash or cherry. It comes in various qualities or grades, depending on if the wood will be stained or painted. In shelf construction, the plywood is usually edged with hardwood veneer tape or trimmed with solid hardwood.

Plastic Laminates
Durable and easy to clean, laminates are popular materials for shelving. Keep in mind they are made of particleboard and the least durable product. A grade up is melamine because of the layer of special paper saturated with a melamine resin. Both affordable and come in many colors. Shelf Kits are vinyl-wrapped shelves, easy to assemble and
are inexpensive. Readily available at all building material stores.
Mostly used in freestanding pieces of furniture such as china and curio cabinets, plate glass is a popular shelf material for displays because it allows you to view objects more fully and does not block the light. Tempered safety glass if the best.

Shelf Hardware
To support the undersides of shelves, tracks and brackets, the adjustable hardware comes in a variety of finishes and lengths. Pine Gusset brackets are attractive but less flexible. Make sure that this hardware is firmly secured into the walls because as the weight of the artifacts increase, you want to make sure the shelf will never collapse, which could cause an unpleasant situation.

Proper lighting is critical for your museum(s). Whether using wall systems, freestanding furniture, shelving, shadow boxes or a coffee table, pay attention to light. When lighting is installed, make sure it fits the needs of the display. Installing lighting during the construction may require the services of an electrician. And make sure there is ventilation. Lights heat up small spaces fast and a cool stable temperature needs
to be maintained at all times.
There are a variety of lighting ways and systems. Basic options are low-voltage recessed down-lights located either at the top of the unit or ceiling-mounted on tracks with the light directed down on the unit. Swivel track lighting aimed at a unit, highlighting any display, including shadow boxes. Concealed Strip lights (rope lights) housed on a flexible backing strip is tucked inside clear or colored plastic tubing. There are halogen, incandescent, fluorescent and gallery lights, wall sconces, small lamps, and other discreet fixtures. You should not see the bulbs, just the glow. Always keep in mind ventilation in closed cabinets and a dimmer switch is a big plus for any lighting scheme. With proper lighting, Your Family Museum will be aesthetically pleasing and inspiring.

Home improvement centers such as and have everything you need.
Finishing Touches
Details make a difference. Stained or painted wood shelves, wallpaper or painted walls give a finished look. Storage below the bottom shelf requires a door(s) or drapery material to conceal the area. Display tools such as small easels, plate hangers, picture frames, Styrofoam blocks and step shelves to build height adding space and interest to the display. To secure and support the items use proper size nails, staples, glue, thumbtacks, Velcro strips and tabs, picture hooks, and museum gel. You will finding most of what you need at arts & craft stores such as
Visit museums, antique shops and galleries. Observe how the artifacts are displayed. Pay attention to the color and patterns on the walls, how textured materials create interesting backdrops, and how acrylic stands, metal or wood easels incorporate height and support.

Whatever space you use for Your Family Museum, you want the finishing touches to dramatically showcase all of the heirlooms, artifacts, books, pictures, etc., highlighting your family’s history. And be creative. Try different setups and themes. And do not be afraid to change, add or subtract things. Just when I think I got it all in place. something else is found and it needs to go into the museum. All of a sudden, things get piled on top one another and space is no longer available. What to do? Re-arrange. It takes a bit of time, but it is a good thing to re-acquaint yourself with your museum. I find it quite therapeutic.  

No matter why or how often you spend time in the Family Museum, have fun!


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