Display cases for your model collection – Where to start?

For any collector, half the fun is not only in the actual act of collecting but in the joy of displaying that collection. Such is the case with choosing a display case for your model collection, whether it’s for your private collection or public display.

Picking the perfect display case should be about more than just finding the ‘right’ price. It’s a choice that should reflect the value of your collection and how much it needs to be shielded not only from the elements, but from the ravages of time itself.

Types of display case

Let’s start by examining the different kinds of display case.

Conservation – This is the type of case used most often by museums and in situations where the collection needs to be completely airtight. These conservation cases are generally built from more chemically stable materials, so no woods and wood composites.

Their airtight nature also means they can be used to create microclimates and protect against shifts in humidity and air pollution. They are typically used to store organic material that’s more likely to break down over time, so will rarely be used to house display models.

Ventilated – A ventilated case is manufactured to allow for perpetual airflow so that the accumulation of pollutants can be prevented.

These cases are much cheaper than conservation grade cases and are often used in situations where items need to be taken out every so often to use or items need to be swapped out.

Because these cases include vents (typically around 2cm in length) dust will also accumulate over time, which means you’ll need to clean your case more often.

Customised – These are bespoke display cases built to order that can be built with any number of materials (from metal and glass to perspex and wood).

Note, however, that when commissioning such a case (or building one yourself) that certain materials are chemically unstable and might have a negative reaction to certain model materials, particularly if the case isn’t properly ventilated. Steer clear of certain woods (oak and teak especially) and unstable adhesives and sealants.

Protecting your display cases

Of course, choosing your display case is only the first step in your journey. You’re also going to need to keep your cases protected to ensure that the models within remain in mint condition.

Lighting – Interior lighting is always a bad idea when it comes to display cases. It might look great to have your models illuminated from within, but these light sources will play havoc with the temperature and can also attract more dust.

If you really need to have internal lighting, keep it separate from the main body of the case or use fibre-optic lighting.

Covering – If the case is made from wood, consider covering it in laminate foil to keep out any damaging materials.

You can also use this foil layer as an initial protective layer, which can be supplemented by pollution absorbers and humidity buffers.

Cleaning – Regular dusting is crucial when it comes to any display case, but particularly ventilated cases. Use a microfibre both to dust your display cases at least once a week, if possible.

For cleaning smudges and print marks on the glass itself, meanwhile, always used an ammonia-based glass cleaner to keep your cases looking shiny and clean.

Ultimately, any display case should be based on your needs. If your collection is incredibly valuable and security is of paramount concern then this should be your primary focus, whereas if you intend on removing items regularly then there’s no point in locking everything up like Fort Knox.

It’s about finding that perfect balance between protection, usability, and aesthetics. And the only person who can find the balance that’s right for you and your collection is you.