Post 493  by Gautam Shah



Storage systems have been with us from very ancient times. These systems have helped in spatial organization of living, commercial and manufacturing areas. Organized storage primarily means segregation and stacking of entities for the purpose visual identification and easy access. Storage systems for foods have been conceived for isolation, preservation and maturation. Commercial and manufacturing storage systems serve the same purposes, but for former visual merchandising and for the later goods and tools, access were important issues.

Storage Cabinets have been known by many names. Almirah is a Portuguese word, Hindi = Alamari, describing a free standing closet. It was a place to keep vestments in the sacristy of a church. Almirahs in modern sense are synonymous with cabinet, cupboard, wardrobe etc. A cabinet could be an open or shuttered-storage entity, so may not be equated with open storage systems with shelves in niche, alcove, bay or recess.


The Sandook, Patara, Manjusha (Hindi), Chest or Box, are all storage units of ancient origin, and considered predecessors of Almirah. Manjusha generally means a box for jewels, or treasure chest. These are associated with nomadic life, so were compact but were multi-functional. These were accessible only from the top and so were cumbersome for storing. These storage units, like the almirah, had few compartments or cells to store small things, and secret chambers for the valuables.


An important category of storage systems includes a chest of drawers, bureaus (French word for office), secretary, secretaire, or escritoire, and desks. These were primarily used for home-based offices, personal study areas, as communication console by officers, ministers and scholars. The units were independent entities, placed against a wall, and often on a raised platform of 100 to 200 mm height. The drawers were for minuscule in size for storing pins and pens, to very large ones for books and manuscripts.

Chippendale Desk

The efficiency of access and ergonomic size made them very popular and began to be used in bed rooms, dining rooms, pantry areas, shops, hotel lobbies, restaurants and bars. In bedrooms these were used as personal craft-station, as Lingerie chest for storing socks, underwear, hands kerchiefs, napkins, as a parlour for make-up things. Lingerie chests were of highboys or tall design where a set of drawers as a tall chest of were mounted on legs. Parlour chests were comparatively lower volume chests, of a bureau-dressing table in combination with a pivoted mirror on an integrated stand or as a wall-mounted frame.

Personal work area Sherlock Holmes Museum

In entrance halls the chests had drawers for shoes but low enough to sit on it to tie shoelaces. Entrance hall chests were accompanied by long wall mirror, a coat stand, and umbrella tray. In dining rooms these became cutlery and linen station taking away the functions of silver room.

The bureaus made their formal appearance in 17th C across Europe. These were similar to modern day office desks, with a set of drawers or shuttered cabinets on sides and knee-space in the center. The knee space often had a drawer, or a flat pull out board for writing. Europe bureaus as a writing desk had no knee space, but the top section had a fold-down flap that rested at both edges on sliding vertical supports. The projecting fold-down flap provided sufficient knee space. The fold-down flap covered a set of pigeon holes or micro-sized drawers.


Castle Ward Interior -Classical Palladian Library for J5749 >© Copyright Suzanne Mischyshyn and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

Design and construction of bureaus was considered a challenge for furniture makers of the times. But as the time progressed designs became lighter, hardware superior and finishing techniques elaborate. The nominal inclined top was replaced with an accordion like folding flaps, or a curved tambour top. By 19th C it essentially became either delicate feminine furniture or robust commercial-use facility.

Dining room cabinet

Shelved storage systems were used for storing scrolls, manuscripts and arms. These were mostly open systems, to permit aeration and in colder climates prevent water condensation, but the same need some enclosure in other climates. The enclosure was provided to the entire room containing such shelves, rather then group of shelves. Almirahs were used where storage requirements of smaller volume. Shelving storage systems were in built niches or alcoves and formed within panelling system. From later part of 18th C it became fashionable to stock famous books in tea-coffee rooms, drawing rooms. Real and false libraries (with slices of books spines) were created as part of room panelling design. With availability of good quality of glass in late 19th C these were covered with wood framed glass shutters.


slotted angle shelving Industrial warehousing


The industrial revolution period saw streamlining of production processes. These required huge warehousing systems for raw materials and finished products. New storage devices such as steel-angle racks, steel almirahs, file cabinets, index card drawers, were now available.




Post 209 – by Gautam Shah 


Things are stored with a clear concept that these will be retrieved in future. Even while storing a person needs to have some idea as to how and when the stored things will be retrieved. Retrieval procedures take into account the order of storing, the condition of the product and what use it will now serve.


Things are stored with some form of planning, and also dumped (or left alone) when one does not know what to do with it. Both the processes are expensive in terms of asset use, material handling, retrieval and reuse or disposal processes. No one will go for it unless there is a clearly perceived advantage. Like all wealth, the value of stored things changes with time, and this may not be beneficial. There is popular perception that stored things are items of wealth and their value will be greater when retrieved.


Value of stored things appreciates when the retrieved state has demand for it, as a matured product, amassed quantity, historical or antique value, and for the long lost technology or materials. The cost of storing and the value at the time retrieval, both could make the stored thing irrelevant. Value of stored things depreciates when the retrieved product is technologically outdated, in deteriorated condition due to ageing, and no takers (no demand) for it.


The increase in value of stored things is due to the act of containment (location massing), ageing (maturing, ripening), organization or orderliness induced through the act of storing, and knowledge of art or technique of retrieval.


Things need to be stored when we wish to condition their state. During storage controlled modifications are allowed or supported. Stored things are affected by not only the external factor such as the environment (atmosphere), internal bio-processes (ripening, maturing, ageing, seasoning, fermentation, dehydration, etc.), settling by gravity, and realignments by magnetic and other energies. Stored things are affected by adjacent things including other stored materials, containers, environment, and overburden.


Things are also stored to isolate them, because an encounter with them is likely to be hazardous or inclement to the well being of people or environment. Atomic waste is stored forever as its radiation hazard gets ‘half life’ over a period. Things are also stored (dumped) when one does not know what to do with the items such as toxic chemicals, or because economically it is not viable to ‘store’ (organize, rationalize) them. Dumped things have no perceptible value, but there is an expectation that dumped things will degenerate eventually, or a better technique or suitable opportunity of dealing with them may become available in future.



Storage systems constitute the largest and the most important group of amenities, that make bare spaces worthy of inhabitation. We not only store materials but also tools to work upon the materials. Stored things help us to conduct our life at a rational pace. Storage spaces occupy substantial space (estate) and often require very acute management.


Materials that we store include not only physical, static and non static things, but biologically live beings (pets) and non-physical things like ideas, concepts, feelings, experiences and thoughts. Tools include gadgets to process various types of materials and also utilities that facilitate storage of materials.


Some of the things we store are static or less mobile and can be stored without being ‘contained’, however, materials like gases, liquids, and biological beings need to be contained. Non-physical things are stored in terms of their impressions formed on some physical medium.


Liquids and gases need vessels to contain them. Since vessels have shape defined by the quality of material and construction technique, their size is inherently limited. Things which are particulate in size (grains, chips, boulders) may require some type of containment, if stored at angles steeper then their angle of repose or under vibratory conditions that can displace them. Containment is necessary for mass transportation, bulk-handling, high density for packing, and to reduce the amount of air space within the bulk. Containment is often in modulated or palatalized units, to improve transportation, stacking and handling. Ship containers, gas cylinders, injection vials, medicinal capsules, bullets, grenades, are some of the examples of modulated storage units. Things that are irregularly sized or shaped, can be stored in heaps, provided there is no chance of a spread out. Things that are uniform in size and shape can be stored in stacks. Stacking and heaping systems of storing, both have size limitations. In stacked and stored things, items placed at the bottom are not only difficult to retrieve but there is an overloading burden on them. Such a burden may cause changes in stored things. In stacked or heaped storage, each of the stored elements interacts differently with the environment.


Silk fabrics, when overburdened, show unwanted creases and lose their tenderness. Woolen pullovers and suits when overburdened lose their fluffy character, and look flat or dead. Rayon get an indelible permanent press. Cotton mattresses when overburdened for long become stiff. Over heaped cement bags get a false set. Overburdened soils over a period turn into a rock like structure. A person with overburdened memory tends to forget less important thing. Oxygen when heavily burdened (compressed) turns into a liquid and Carbon dioxide into ice like form.


Things stored in a library book shelf form can be retrieved, irrespective of order of storage. But heaped or stacked things can be retrieved as `first stored – removable last’. In grain stores like silos all old grains must be removed before fresh ones are stored or alternatively a bottom extraction must be arranged. Memory storage for digital devices are random access system unlike magnetic tapes that were sequential access systems.


Edibles are stored mainly because their supply is seasonal or time related. Other provisions are stored for the same reason, and also because we may consume only a small part of the commercially available packing or the producible lot at any instant. Clothes are stored because their use is a climate and often occasion related. Raw materials need to be stored to amass a usable size of stock and to season or process them. Tools need to be stored because we use them over and over again, not only for the same tasks but also different tasks. Energy resources are localized and often seasonal.


Different societies endow special importance to certain commodities, as prime things worthy of possession and display.