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Boat models in large glass exhibit case

All About Glass Showcases

Anatomy of an Exhibit Case

During the designing of an exhibit space, there are many considerations that an institution has to take into account. Exhibit cases are the skeletons of the exhibit, holding up valuable objects and allowing them to be the focus.

When it comes to selecting exhibit cases a primary questions often arises - glass or acrylic? While each has it's own benefits, here we will be outlining what you'll need to know about glass exhibit cases and how they may fit into your design and space.

Benefits of Glass

Hand lifting weight

Structural Strength

Glass is self-supporting because it has a higher tensile and shear strength than acrylic. Therefore, glass showcases can be designed on a larger scale.

Screwdriver and wrench

Low Maintenance

Glass does not mar or scratch easily and is easy to disinfect. It can be cleaned with a standard glass cleaner without concern for damaging the finish.

Stopwatch surrounded by gears


Glass showcases can last 10+ years. Due to its long lifespan, glass cases are often used in long-term permanent exhibits.
Hand with key floating above


Due to the weight and rigidity of glass, cases often are built with features to make it easy to access the case, such as hinged doors or gas lifters.

Glass pedestal case in brown stone hallway


Glass showcases are often created using a metal or wood frame that the glass panels are attached to. The frames are typically simple in design to avoid distracting viewers from the object on display

Variety of glass exhibit cases with art displayed on wall


To create UV-bonded vitrines, an adhesive is applied to the edges of the panels to be joined, then cured using concentrated UV light. This results in clear, transparent, bubble-free joints.

Butt Joint

A technique in which two pieces of material are joined by simply placing their ends together without any special shaping.

Graphic illustrating a butt joint

Mitered Joint

A mitered joint is created by joining two pieces of glass cut at 45-degree angles to fit together forming a 90-degree corner.

Graphic illustrating a mitered joint
Broken laminated glass in classic spiderweb pattern
Large bridge model in exhibit case

Laminated Safety Glass

GA® Case Lines
Standard: Curator, Charter | Optional: Sierra, Paxton

  • Made from two panels of glass with vinyl film between them. With impact, the glass will shatter but remain in one piece.
  • UV-filtering
  • The most expensive and preferred conservation option
Broken tempered glass showing small pieces
Series of dressed mannequins in large exhibit case

Tempered Glass

GA® Case Lines
Sierra, Paxton, Sedgwick, Eastwood

  • Heated twice to increase durability, the glass breaks into multi-sided pieces with impact.
  • Not UV-filtering


Low-Iron Glass

​​​​​​​All glass types have a color tint due to iron used during manufacture. Water white glass, also known as low-iron glass, lessens the color tint and has an anti-reflective surface for increased clarity. ​​​​​​​

Other Considerations

  • ​Glass is 50% heavier than acrylic which will directly impact shipping costs and access to the display space.
  • Less fabricators work with museum-quality glass and casework which leads to long lead times.
  • During shipping, glass cases require crating and delicate handling to prevent damage.
  • While the actual glass itself is low maintenance, access features such as hinged doors and gas lifters require regular maintenance.
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