Comparing Acrylic & Glass Showcases

An important consideration when selecting an exhibit case is the vitrine material. Glass and acrylic both have their strengths and weaknesses, but the final decision requires choosing the best balance for your exhibit space and objects.

Large Glass Showcase, National Maritime Museum, Falmouth

Why Would I Choose Glass?

  • Excellent for permanent exhibits due to its durability
  • Glass cases fit a specific aesthetic choice
  • Loaned objects can require glass cases
  • Glass's tensile strength makes it ideal for larger cases

 
 

Glass Showcase​​​​​​​

Glass Showcase


Large Acrylic Showcase, Royal Tyrrell Museum

Why Would I Choose Acrylic?

  • Acrylic material and fabrication costs less, making it more affordable
  • Light weight makes accessing contents easier, which is ideal for rotating exhibits
  • More case fabricators work with acrylic and conservation-grade exhibit cases, resulting in faster turnaround
  • Compared to glass cases, acrylic is easier to replace

Large Acrylic Showcase with Acrylic Pedestals​​​​​​​

Acrylic Showcases


Glass Acrylic
Cost Cost will be higher due to manufacturing time and materials Lower cost reflects the cost of fabrication and material
Lead Time Lead time will be longer than acrylic due to manufacturing complexity More fabricators work with acrylic than glass so it can be produced faster; this makes an acrylic vitrine easier to replace in an emergency
Lifespan Range 10-25+ years Ranges from 2 to 25+ based on the type of acrylic and handling
Size Limits Glass can be made into larger cases Acrylic has vitrine size limitations based on the thickness of the acrylic and bonding method used
Security When broken, laminated safety glass will stay in one piece and will not shatter; tempered glass will break into many small pieces Acrylic is shatter resistant and will stay in one piece when broke
UV Protection Tempered glass cases do not have UV filtering; laminated safety glass is UV filtering Acrylic is available both in standard acrylic and UV-filtering acrylic
Weight Glass cases are very heavy Acrylic can be up to half the weight of glass
Case Accessibility Cases should have features that accommodate the weight of glass; gas lifters and hinged doors are examples Because acrylic is lighter, it is easier to lift and remove from a case, however, it does require careful handling to prevent damage; limited access techniques because acrylic is less rigid
Cleaning Surface can be cleaned with glass cleaner Special cleaners made for acrylic (such as Acrifix) are necessary to extend the life of your case; they will also reduce the static buildup that happens with acrylic
Maintenance Hinges, gas lifters and seals require regular maintenance to ensure case longevity Other than careful handling, no maintenance is required
Shipping Cost Due to the weight of glass, crated shipping costs will be higher Due to the lighter weight of acrylic, shipping costs will be lower

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