ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Museum Support Center Anniston held a ribbon cutting ceremony March 7 for its newest artifact storage facility.

The new building, the Field Museum Support Center, will house collections from the various museums within the Army system.

"This is part of a bigger vision of an integrated Army museum system that we will be part of," said Gerald O'Keefe, administrative assistant to the Secretary of the Army during his remarks at the ceremony. "We have amassed a vast collection of artifacts."

Currently, the Army's collection consists of over 650,000 artifacts, located at 228 sites.

O'Keefe thanked those who were instrumental in making the storage space at Anniston Army Depot available and useful.

He said it was amazing to see the building's transformation from being part of the chemical storage and demilitarization mission to functioning as artifact storage.

"You can see the realization of this vision already with what has been done so far," said O'Keefe.

Items ranging from patches, hats and other small items all the way up to tanks and large weapons will be stored and maintained within the Museum Support Center's facilities.

The opening of this center will enable the Army museum system to be more efficient, since artifact management will be handled in one location, rather than at each individual museum.

"Once people know you are a museum, everyone wants to bring you stuff," said Lt. Col. Alisha Hamel, chief of the Museum Support Center Anniston. "The unfortunate side effect of taking in everything is that you have too much stuff."

The Museum Support Center's roots at Anniston Army Depot go back to the 1980s when the Center of Military History moved its main storage facility from Pueblo Colorado to a new facility constructed at ANAD.

As part of the consolidation process, Hamel's staff has been tasked to pare down the collections, keeping the artifacts which need to be preserved.

"We can make sure we're collecting stuff we don't have 5,000 of already," she said.

Having the artifacts at one central location also enables the various museums to refresh their collection with regularity.

"When an artifact is on display, there is always a measure of degradation," said Hamel. "To slow the process, it must be put in storage to rest before it is put on display again."

All items in the Museum Support Center are catalogued digitally with photographs and supporting documentation. The catalogue also lists each item's condition - whether good, bad or in need of care.

To support the consolidation of artifacts, MSC Anniston has grown - from four employees in 2012 to 17 positions currently.

When fully staffed, the center will have seven permanent employees, four contract employees, five term or temporary and one military.