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The Conservation requirements for the storage area in a National Resting Place are for undisturbed, dark storage which meets the environmental, access and safety needs of the remains while allowing staff to access them occasionally for short or long periods. It must also take into account the need to incorporate as much passive technology into the design as possible to ensure long-term economic and energy sustainability. ‘By appropriate planning, choice of materials, and especially the management of ventilation one can achieve free heating in cool climates and even free cooling in over heated climates’ (AICCM 2014, p. 25).

The information given here applies only to a facility sited in a dry, cool-temperate climate such as Canberra’s and is based on the technology and understandings available at the time of writing.

It is assumed that there will be at least 2 storage spaces – the General Storage Area for skeletal and mummified remains, hair, biological samples, grave goods and casts; and a separate area in which the fluid-preserved specimens are held in specially ventilated cabinets (see Section 3.2). Personal experience at the NMA Keeping Place suggests there are only likely to be a very small number of this latter type of remains and their storage will be considered separately from the General Storage Area.

The General Storage Area is essentially a purpose-built, dark store with the need for access limited to the deposition of incoming Ancestral Remains and the scheduled programs for cleaning, pest checking and checking remains with special requirements. Such a room lends itself to a completely passive design (see Figure 1) and requires the following features:

  • The Store should be sited in the centre of the building with no walls in common with the exterior of the building in order to reduce unwanted solar gain in hot weather or heat loss during cold periods. This arrangement will also reduce access for pests.
  • It should sit directly onto the concrete slab-on-ground foundation. This will provide the thermal mass required to store and release heat and thus dampen temperature fluctuations within the Store. It will also reduce the risk of vibration. In a climate like Canberra’s it is advisable to insulate the underneath and sides of a slab-on-ground foundation (Reardon et al. 2013: Typical Applications section). If it is necessary to site the Storage Room on an upper level of the building there are a number of options for creating a thermal mass in the floor. All of these would require insulation under whatever material is used to create the floor. A thermal performance assessor should be consulted about specific requirements once the site for a National Resting Place is determined and before the design is finalised. However, if the room is to be in an upper level of the building it is essential that every effort be made to ensure that vibration is structurally dampened.
  • The dimensions of the room, particularly the height, need to be discussed with a thermal performance assessor to ensure that the thermal mass is sufficient to passively maintain the required temperature range for the volume of air in the room.
  • The walls and ceiling should be insulated to the highest standards.
  • The walls and ceiling should be lined with a layer of hygroscopic material to give stability to the RH.
  • The materials in the walls and ceiling should have the highest available fire rating.
  • The materials in the walls should be smooth and continuous to facilitate cleaning and to avoid providing slots and gaps where insects can breed or mould develop.
  • The floor should be polished concrete with no additional floor covering to ensure maximum benefit from the thermal mass it provides and also to make cleaning and pest management as efficient as possible.
  • There should be no windows.
  • There should be 2 standard doors, one at either end of the room, to ensure there is an exit in the case of emergency. These doors should be tight fitting/sealed to prevent unintended air movement into and out of the Store leading to fluctuations in RH. Access through these doors into the Storage should be security controlled, but exit from the Store should be unrestricted.
  • There should be no adjacent wet areas and no wet pipes running through the floors, walls or ceiling.
  • If there is an occasional need for lifting or access equipment, there should be an insulated, access controlled, tight-fitting, sliding door with dimensions sufficient to allow that equipment to be moved into and out of the room. Equipment should not be kept in the Store and should never be recharged there due to the generation of ozone during recharging.
  • All electrical fittings should be spark protected.
  • Fans are required to keep the air in the room moving to minimise the development of still microclimates where pests can breed and mould can develop undisturbed.
  • Because the Store would be virtually sealed, the air will become stale over time. To provide a safe working environment for staff, there should be a monitoring system which identifies when the RH and temperature of the environment outside the building falls within the parameters set for the environment in the Store (see Section 3.2). When these conditions are met, it should be possible to activate an exhaust fan vented to the outside of the building at one end of the room and a filtered air intake for external air intake at the other end to replace the air in the Store. It is desirable that this system be able to be manually controlled to avoid the cost of unnecessary air changes during periods when staff are not likely to be accessing the room for more than a few minutes.
  • General coverage lighting is required to facilitate cleaning and pest checks, and sectional lighting may also be desirable, depending on the layout of the room.
  • Power points at floor level are required to power cleaning equipment. How many will depend on the layout of the room.
  • The room should have good wi-fi coverage to facilitate the tracking and location of Ancestral Remains and the use of laptops. This would need to be governed by strict privacy controls to ensure no information about an Ancestral Remain is made public.
  • Digital environmental monitoring equipment should be hard wired into the Store. This should provide an ongoing recording of conditions in the room and be capable of providing back-to-base alerts when environmental conditions go outside the set parameters.
  • Fire extinguishers should be strategically located around the walls.
  • There should be no automated fire suppression system [7] installed in the Store because its design makes it unlikely that a fire could begin there. However, there should be a VESDA (Very Early Smoke Detection Apparatus) system installed with back-to-base reporting to ensure that, in the unlikely event of fire, swift action can be taken.


[7] A nitrogen enhanced environment was considered as a fire prevention measure but was rejected because: it limits access for more than a short period of time unless the room is flushed with fresh air and the nitrogen replaced after access; it is inadvisable for pregnant women and anyone with a respiratory condition to enter the room; it would be an additional ongoing cost to maintain the system which could be avoided by adopting a more passive approach.

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