Avenir Collections Center

The Avenir Collections Center is a state-of-the art collections facility that houses the Museum’s 4.3 million specimens and artifacts

On February 14, 2014, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science opened an award-winning five-level addition on its south side. The new wing’s two below-ground levels—known collectively as the Avenir Collections Center—are designed to sustainably preserve the Museum’s anthropology, archives, earth sciences, and zoology collections while optimizing preventive conservation methods, access, and climate control. Designed for collections processing as well as storage, the 63,000-square-foot center includes dedicated and flexible workshops, a photo studio, a conservation lab, and offices for collections and conservation staff.

The Avenir Collections Center contains over 2,000 custom pieces of storage furniture in nearly 20 different styles, ranging from specialized entomology cabinets and rolled textiles racks to oversized pallet racks to hold some of our largest dinosaur specimens. The preservation spaces were designed using mobile storage carriages—riding on nearly one mile of track—allowing for up to 60% more storage space within the same square footage. Each department has designed and developed custom mounts, cradles, and other storage systems for items within their collections. This efficiency allows the Museum to maximize the number of collections in the Avenir Collections Center without compromising the long-term preservation needs of the collection.

Planning for the Avenir Collections Center

In 2005, the Museum’s strategic plan prioritized a Science and Collections Initiative to enhance the quality, care, and public access of collections as an institutional priority. It had long been recognized that the current conditions of collections, housed in 49 spaces throughout the building not designed for collection preservation or access, needed to be holistically addressed. Over the following five years, the Museum undertook numerous planning projects to better identify specific risks to collections and to strategize the most efficient means to mitigate those risks. Master facility plans, an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)-funded risk assessment, additional strategic plans, feasibility studies, and a Long-Term Collections and Research Plan were all implemented to ensure the success of adding a new wing to the Museum, a portion of which would become the Museum’s first-ever designated space for collections preservation and access.

A bond approved by Denver voters funded a portion of the construction costs of a new addition to the Museum, including a stunning new collections center. An IMLS Museums for America grant supported a systematic risk assessment for all of the Museum’s collections, providing site-specific care priorities and defining design specifications for the new facility and storage furniture. As the new facility was designed and built, the Museum received gifts from private foundations and grants from the IMLS, National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and National Science Foundation (NSF) to assist in the purchase of storage furniture in which to rehouse collections.

LEED Platinum Certification

Designed for sustainability, the new wing is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certified by the US Green Building Council. The addition is designed to realize a 62% energy use savings, resulting in a 50% energy cost savings over a typical building of its type. Its predominantly underground location provides passive regulation of the preservation environment; it also has a ground source heat pump, solar-heated hot water source, photovoltaic array, and custom-designed HVAC system with seasonal set points that are more easily adjusted and require less energy to achieve in the Denver climate. It has zoned, automatic lighting, layered security systems, and other sustainable systems. Concentric zones of increased standards of cleanliness and security balance both preservation and access goals.


Melissa Bechhoefer, MS

Director of Integrative Collections

Frequently Asked Questions

About 63,000 square feet—or about the size of 1.5 football fields!

We estimate approximately 4.3 million specimens and artifacts are in our collections—and the number continues to grow.

While the collections areas are typically not open to the public, one of the best opportunities to see the facility and our collections is to become a Museum member! We open sections of the Avenir Collections Center during members-only special events a handful of times each year.

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