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Behind the scenes

Moving a collection in a pandemic

Written by Amy Foulds, collections and library manager

We've been working with specialist conservators to move thousands of objects into our brand new stores.

The project was slightly delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, but the nature of conservation work means that conservators are well equipped for the new requirements around safety.

Read about a recent conservation project at the Museum

A toy robot dog on a museum store shelving unit

About the move

It took four people eight days to move everything from the temporary stores into the permanent ones

We hired Orbis Conservation to help coordinate the move alongside our collections team.

As conservators they follow strict codes of health and safety and are meticulously careful.

A person rearranging objects in the museum stores

Keeping staff safe

Some museum collections contain hazardous objects that could be dangerous to humans, such as asbestos and mercury.

Because of this, conservators often wear masks and gloves and other types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect themselves from these risks.

Cleanliness is also vital: before the move one of the team spent a few days cleaning the mould off hundreds of glass slides.

Once this was done, the brushes and vacuums used were thoroughly cleaned so that no spores were spread to other objects.

Signs about social distancing in Museum store shelves

Keeping objects safe

Beyond the risks to themselves, conservators are often working with very fragile objects, which might be totally irreplaceable.

They have to work patiently and methodically to ensure nothing gets broken.

All of this meant that the team were well prepared for working on a collection move during a pandemic.

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A new start

The new stores are a great improvement on what we had before and the move is a major milestone in our redevelopment project.

Previously we kept our collections in quite cramped conditions in the basement of the Museum.

The new stores will provide a home for the 30,000+ books and objects in our collection and will be more energy efficient and more accessible to the public.

New spaces: the stores

Creating a community asset

100s of shells, 60 hours of cleaning

A recent conservation project