By Emma Philip, Curator of Fine Art
When the ‘big one’ was taken apart for conservation, we found this wooden Oxo crate had been sawn up and used to repair the underside of two of the lower units. We don’t know for sure, but it is feasible that these additions date from the initial transfer of the Cottonian Collection from the Plymouth Proprietary Library to the City Museum and Art Gallery in the early part of the twentieth century.
We know from the archives that the collection was moved and then gradually opened to the public between 1915 and 1918. The delay was caused by a lack of cabinet makers, as many of Plymouth’s skilled men had joined up to fight in the First World War. Perhaps as both men and materials were scarce, these crates were recycled by some cunning local carpenter.